Green circular economy: Recycled plastic film for pellets

Ecological responsibility goes far beyond the production of our products. On the way to a green circular economy, Mercer Torgau also analyzes and optimizes product packaging.

Pellets remain popular with consumers due to their sustainability, efficiency and low prices compared to fossil fuels. With an annual production of around 100,000 tons of high-quality wood pellets, Mercer Torgau is one of the largest pellet producers in the DACH region (the collective grouping of three Central European countries: Germany (D for Deutschland), Austria (A), and Switzerland (CH for Confoederatio Helvetica) . Around half of the quantity produced in Torgau is filled into 15 kg bags and sold to consumers via retailers. The robust packaging protects the certified biofuels from moisture and soiling. 

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Polyethylene (PE) film with a thickness of 80 μm was previously used to produce sacks. Over 3 million bags per year were bagged and transported in this way. To get closer to the goal of a green circular economy, Technical Purchasing put the material for pellet packaging to the test. The aim was to replace the PE film with a recycled version. 


PCR film with a high degree of recycling

One of the challenges in recycling plastic is that different types of plastic do not mix well when melted. Even the smallest quantities of the wrong type of plastic can hurt the quality of the new end product.

Finding a company familiar with plastic recycling challenges was an important criterion for Mercer Torgau when selecting a future supplier. Extensive market research was therefore carried out and based on this, a tender was issued in 2021. The company Verpa Folie also took part.

The Bavarian family business has developed its own concept: The manufacturer offers an optional collection of pressed film waste from its customers, feeds it back into the material cycle and uses it to manufacture new products. This ensures that no unwanted plastics end up in the cycle. Mercer Torgau was also impressed by this concept and tested the PCR film to produce plastic bags for pellets. 

Thinner film with continued high product protection

To achieve a greater effect on environmental protection, the film thickness was also reduced from 80 to 70 μm. Extensive tests have shown that the new plastic bags are of the required quality to protect the biofuels from contamination and moisture during transportation. 

Following the successful tests, the plastic bags for Mercer Torgau’s pellets are now made from a 70 μm thin PCR film. PCR stands for “Post Consumer Recycling” and represents one of the highest recycling levels. The film is returned to the production cycle through high-quality recycling, thereby protecting resources and reducing plastic waste. As the film is made of polyethylene, this process can be repeated as often as required, according to the manufacturer. Verpa is also planning an independent recycling plant in which the degree of recycling of residual materials is to be further increased. This will also contribute to greater independence from suppliers. 

At Mercer Torgau, the conditions are not yet in place to provide the film waste in the desired format so it can be returned to the cycle. This will be examined in the coming months based on the quantities of waste material and the necessary investment in a corresponding pressing plant.