Kraiburg seeks ‘the right quality of recycling'
For Kraiburg TPE GmbH & Co. KG, the sustainability of its custom-engineered materials is journey with a destination.
And while the thermoplastic elastomer, vulcanizate and polyurethane supplier is not at the end-point of circularity yet, it is a good distance from the starting line.
The Waldkraiburg, Germany-based company is helping push the industry toward that end, arriving at K 2022 with a new portfolio of sustainable TPEs for the consumer, industrial and automotive spaces in hand.
Thermolast R, like many of Kraiburg's products, includes varying degrees of recycled materials — up to 41 percent in some cases — all with equal performance characteristics to the materials that put the supplier on the map in the first place.
"Thermolast R combines a lot of things we've been working on for the past 16 months and, in a way, it stands for the transformation [Kraiburg] has undergone for some time now," said Monika Hofman, director of Europe, Middle East and Asia for Kraiburg. "We distance ourselves deliberately from consistently high values — the focus is on the fact that in terms of a sustainable plastic, we've continuously … developed in a transparent, honest way and closely to customers' needs."
The company caters to customer needs, indeed, but also to its customers' geography. Using recyclates sourced from the communities it serves is the only way Kraiburg can meet its sustainability goals.
"The biggest challenge for us, and I think for everyone using plastic materials, is to find the right sources," Kraiburg CEO Oliver Zintner said. "The plastic recycling industry has existed for many years. But for high-quality applications — as has been the trend over the last year — the whole industry is looking for the right sources, the right quality of recycling program.
"We are keeping an open eye, always looking for partnerships and colleagues in this regard. And the notion of [geographic] proximity within each market is still important."
Kraiburg typically offers TPEs containing anywhere between 20 percent and more than 40 percent recycled content, depending on the specific material.
Partnerships play a critical role for Kraiburg in engineering the materials, and choosing the right recycling source is critical.
"In principle this can be more challenging," Zintner said. "Our goals for sustainability only exist due to our partnerships, with our sources and suppliers as well as customers. We cannot do it alone."
Kraiburg provides its customers with "proof of recycling" for its high density polyethylenes and polypropylenes, ensuring that its products "adhere to customer requirements," according to Alberto Oba, sales and marketing director for the Americas.