Innovation in the sustainability space
Recycling plastics in a way that is both economically successful and makes ecological sense is something that was hardly imaginable for many just a few years ago. The recycling machine manufacturer EREMA in Austria - like the sustainable packaging manufacturer Polykar in Canada - became a pioneer in its field through its early entry into plastics recycling. The two companies crossed paths in 2007 at the customer centre of EREMA North America (ENA) in Ipswich, MA, when Polykar founders Elyse Damdjee and Aziz Karim expressed the desire to see an EREMA plant in operation and check out the recycled pellets it produced during a trial run. "During this visit we were able to demonstrate the performance of our recycling machines and the excellent level of service we provide. That was the start of a partnership that is still going strong today," says ENA CEO Mike Horrocks.
Amir Karim, President and CEO of Polykar, took over the company, founded in 1987, and spent the last two decades turning his once garbage-bag family business into a sustainable-packaging powerhouse. The product range focus areas are: polyethylene film for converters, garbage bags, certified compostable bags and food and industrial flexible packaging. A circular approach to packaging has always been key for Polykar who continues to engage in partnerships with global polyethylene suppliers and end users to recycle and reuse recycled packaging, giving the material a second life.
EREMA is a long-standing, reliable technology partner
Polykar began recycling post-industrial and post-commercial PE film following the purchase of their first EREMA T recycling system, which was commissioned one year after their visit to ENA. That was followed by an EREMA TVE system in 2011, and in 2014 the company was one of the world's first to use the new INTAREMA® TVEplus® recycling system with SW RTF melt filter, which had only recently been brought on to the market, making Polykar one of the most modern and efficient flexible film recycling plant operating in the province. That was the first generation of equipment that featured the newly developed and worldwide patented Counter Current technology. This innovative concept saw EREMA set a milestone in mechanical plastics recycling, because the optimised material feed from the cutter compactor into the tangentially aligned extruder enables it to take up more material in less time. Inside the cutter compactor, the material rotates in the opposite direction to the extruder, which means that the optimum temperature range of the material entering the extruder is much wider and the output rate is much higher. As a result, it provided the perfect technological support for the expansion of recycling capacity that Polykar was planning at the time, which moved to the next level in 2017. That is when the fourth recycling line went into operation in Montréal: A new INTAREMA® TVEplus® machine with Laser Filter. Together, these four machines, paired with the fact that Polykar also purchases post-industrial and post-commercial film scrap, currently produce more than 10,000 tons of recycled pellets per year.
Looking to the future with confidence
Polykar took its most recent step in growth in December 2022 with the opening of a new 50,000 square-foot state-of-the-art plant in Edmonton, Alberta. The new plant houses one of North America's most innovative centres of excellence for the development and marketing of flexible and compostable packaging.
Part of the modern line-up of machinery is an INTAREMA® 1310 TVEplus® machine with backflush filter. This recycles heavily printed LDPE production and industrial waste from blown film production. Annual capacity is 4,000 tons of recycled pellets. The company is therefore making a significant contribution to the Province of Alberta's efforts to keep plastic waste out of landfills by incorporating a cutting-edge recycling facility. It has also created 50 new jobs, with the number expected to grow to 70 within the next two years.
"Ever since we have focused specifically on plastics recycling, EREMA has been our innovative and reliable partner, offering top solutions for our requirements," explained Karim on why his company has kept on choosing recycling machines from the Austrian manufacturer every time it makes a new purchase. "The systems equipped with degassing and filters cope well with contamination from labels and adhesive tapes and produce high-quality recycled pellets. Recycling processes that work well are the basis for reusing more plastic waste and therefore less being sent to landfills. That is our goal!"
The packaging manufacturer, which was named with the prestigious Canada’s Best Managed Companies designation for its overall business performance and sustained growth since 2021 has a very positive outlook. "I see it as a huge opportunity to develop a whole slew of products that can be reused in the circular economy. Our team members can also bring in their flexible plastic waste from home to be recycled in-house. Introducing recycled content into some of our products is one of many examples of how we actively help advance the circular economy. It feels good to be involved in a business that is both economically successful and makes ecological sense," concluded Karim.
*Co-written with EREMA.