In the "Circular Competence" interview series, the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association asks its member companies about their plans, solutions and challenges on the road to a circular economy. What can the industry do to minimize the ecological footprint of packaging and other printed products?
Frankfurt - Michael Schneiss, Managing Director of D.W.Renzmann Apparatebau GmbH from Monzingen, talks about how his company minimises its own ecological footprint and helps its customers to use resources more sparingly.
Do you use recycling and waste avoidance concepts in your own production?
A few years ago, we took part in a waste and resource audit conducted by the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. This revealed that, as an assembly company, we have a comparatively low energy and resource requirement. Nevertheless, we subsequently invested in modern, energy-saving welding equipment and completely converted our hall lighting to LED. In addition, we have optimised the processes in our paint shop so that we can now paint and dry significantly more parts with the same amount of energy. We offset the remaining greenhouse gas emissions in the 'VCS Forest Reforestation Uruguay' project.
How do your machines and systems help your customers use raw materials more efficiently?
As a manufacturer of washing machines for the graphic arts and paint manufacturing industries, we also offer our customers distillation systems with which they can process, and reuse used solvents on site. Classically, contaminated solvents and ink residues are collected by external companies. These are processed with a significantly lower recovery rate than in our distillation process and are then transported back to the customer filled with fresh solvent. Our plants recover up to 95 percent of the solvents. This means customers must replace the five percent that is lost in the distillation process. This reduces the burden on the environment and lowers costs - and the distillation residues can be thermally recycled, for example, in cement production or other energy-intensive processes. This in turn reduces the use of fossil fuels there. Economic and ecological advantages are directly linked here.
What role does this topic play in your research and development?
We work primarily to increase the energy efficiency of our washing and distilling technology. We have various heating processes ready to link seamlessly to our customers' existing energy infrastructures. One important field of action is the recovery of waste heat in the distillation process, which can be used to preheat the next batch of solvent to be purified. This reduces the energy required for evaporation. The aim is to minimize the use of energy and resources to the extent that is actually necessary.
Is the demand for resource-efficient solutions driven more by regulation or more by potential cost savings?
In our case, both apply. With our distillation plants, the businesspeople and the environmental officers are equally pleased. The financial return on investment usually takes barely two years and the use of solvents drops significantly right from the start. Customers all over the world take advantage of these benefits. We now have an export share of 75 percent and have noticed for some years that our customers are increasingly concerned with the ecological footprint of their production.
What should legislators do to promote resource-efficient technologies?
As a small medium-sized company, we are currently experiencing that it is not that easy to become self-sufficient in renewable energy. We would like to purchase a photovoltaic system to use the electricity in the company and in our vehicles. This is not so interesting from an economic point of view. But we are prepared to make our contribution towards a climate-neutral society. It would be desirable if there were more targeted support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Many programs are aimed at private households. And it takes time to get halfway through the federal funding jungle. This effort deters interested companies. From many conversations with customers and partner companies, I know that the willingness to invest in renewable energies and efficient technology is greater than ever. Politicians would do well to pick up SMEs in this area with suitable support measures.