Can waste paper generate electricity

The demand for paper packaging is increasing - thanks to online trading. The paper mill in Raubling benefits from this. For recycling, it depends on raw materials and careful consumers.

Raubling - The kitchen cabinets, bought from a large Swedish furniture store, are set up. What remains are large, brown and particularly sturdy boxes made of corrugated cardboard. What the kitchen owner will hardly waste a thought on: He is currently folding a real recycling product. If it is disposed of properly, it can start a new life as a corrugated cardboard box up to seven times.

If you bought the kitchen from Ikea or the flat screen TV from Media Markt, to name just two examples, the paper factory in Raubling may be the producer of the corrugated base paper from which such outer packaging is made.

Waste paper is the most important raw material at the site with its over 100-year tradition in paper production. According to the managing directors Thomas Schneider and Dr. Maximilian Luger is used annually in Raubling.

Most important raw materials: waste paper and Tetrapaks

In order to partially cover this demand on site, the parent company, the Heinzel Group, operates a waste paper collection company with a sorting system for waste paper, Chiemgau Recycling GmbH, at the Raubling location. The raw material is also obtained from other parts of Europe. The second important raw material is beverage cartons, 60,000 tons of which are recycled annually. For comparison: In Germany, 130,000 tons of such cardboard boxes are collected every year.

"We clean the liquid cardboard and break it down into its individual components - paper fibers, aluminum and polyethylene," explains Maximilian Luger. Only two companies in Germany have the technical possibilities for this complex process and to feed the components into the recycling cycle; Raubling Papier GmbH is one of them.

Dispose of the beverage cartons correctly for recycling

In order for beverage cartons - often colloquially called Tetrapaks, but this is a brand of the Tetrapak company - to be able to be recycled at all, they must be properly disposed of. The composite packaging made of cardboard, plastic and metal therefore does not belong in the residual waste, according to the Bavarian consumer center. Not even on paper. Consumers should dispose of them in the yellow bin or the yellow sack. However, this system was not introduced in the city and district of Rosenheim, according to Ralf Seeburger from the Rosenheim Environment and Green Area Office. "The municipalities decide for themselves which disposal system they offer their citizens."

The bring system applies in the Rosenheim region: Consumers can dispose of their beverage cartons themselves in suitable containers for lightweight packaging at the building yard and the around 80 recycling islands. The cardboard boxes do not have to be rinsed beforehand, "spoon clean" is sufficient: So without milk or juice residues. If you flatten and fold the empty packaging, you help to save space in the containers.

Every carton counts: According to environmental experts, only every third beverage carton is recycled in Germany.

Components are used in a variety of ways

In Raubling, only the cell fibers of the milk or juice cartons are required to produce the corrugated base paper; Nevertheless, no raw material is wasted, says Maximilian Luger. Aluminum and PE went to the Rohrdorf cement works, where around 15,000 tons of coal were used as fuel every year. This partnership works well, confirms Anton Bartinger, technical manager at the cement plant. The combustible components of the dismantled beverage cartons are used to generate energy in the rotary kiln, "in addition, aluminum is one of the main elements of clinker fired in the kiln".

The cement works could not meet all of its aluminum requirements from its own rock. In Raubling, too, everything revolves around a steadily growing demand: While the demand for "normal" paper is falling worldwide as a result of increasing online trade and digitization, but the need for shipping boxes is increasing, the international packaging industry is on the rise.

According to Thomas Schneider, China alone produces around 115 million tons of paper each year, around 72 million tons of which are packaging paper. “India is catching up rapidly, but recycling is also increasingly taking place in the countries themselves,” says Schneider, describing a new process that is also influencing the industry in this country: China is increasingly importing pure waste paper, has tightened its guidelines - and in the EU has become the recovered paper market is now relaxed again.

Sturdy corrugated cardboard boxes are available in one or more layers, depending on how heavy and unwieldy the goods are. “Vehicle manufacturers, for example, transport their engines in the outer packaging that is made with our corrugated cardboard base paper,” explains Thomas Schneider. The boxes with the corrugated interior - like a sandwich, a box consists of a smooth layer, corrugated cardboard and again a flat cardboard surface - should be so stiff that you can sit on it. Two huge paper machines bring the “perfect wave” into the recycled base paper.

In the end, the corrugated cardboard base paper also fulfills requirements such as transport and storage in damp and cold environments.

The energy required is generated in-house

Maximilian Luger explains that the environment is the focus of production at the site. "Our machines run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year." "We generate all of the energy, heat and electricity we need ourselves."

With biogas produced in-house, for example. In addition, the neighboring industrial companies are also supplied with energy. The water from the Inn used in the production process is treated in a multi-stage, biological wastewater treatment plant and, under the strictest legal requirements, cleaned and returned to the river. "Our goal is not only to use resources sustainably, but to save even more and thereby optimally adapt to future environmental challenges," conclude Luger and Schneider.