For more than twenty years, post-industrial engineering plastics have been Mepol’s core business. A tradition that anticipated the evolution of a market that is today increasingly attentive to protecting the planet. «Environment sustainability in itself is not enough, development is real only if you are able to generate economic value» Mirco Melato, CEO of the Italian company, tells to Plastix World. «Environment friendly compounds must indeed ensure technical and aesthetic performance, but also deliver an economic commitment on a par with traditional materials». For a company, being green means accepting the challenge. Mepol has done it and keeps getting better at it
by Silvia Tiani
The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that implies the sharing, reuse, reconditioning and recycling of materials and products for as long as possible. A virtuous cycle which is now in the forefront of EU policy. «A cycle that must be supported by strong technological development if it is to be economically sustainable for industrial processes» says Mirco Melato, CEO of the Mepol Group (Riese Pio XII, Treviso, Italy). «It is therefore fundamental to create a network with expert partners, especially today when the market has to face increasingly aggressive and restrictive policies».
Pioneers in the circular economy
Since its beginning in 1996, the Mepol Group has been focused on this direction, making the regeneration of post-industrial and end of waste plastics its core business.
«Constant research and development has enabled us to obtain compounds with competitive technical characteristics, in certain applications also with a virgin material base.
These are Eco-Compounds®, a range that contains at least 30% of recycled material, certified CSI Recycled Plastics, and which is compliant with technical standard UNI 10667» Melato points out. «In our laboratory, we can formulate the material that best meets the needs of our clients, whom we then support through attentive and precise consultation even for projects that require top quality compounds to be used».
The success of this transition dictates that the engineering and development of a material meets the technical-mechanical performance standards of the corresponding virgin polymer, but also meets sustainability requirements set down by the Green Public Procurement program (GPP). «This is the approach the public authorities adopt as a basis to integrate environmental criteria in all stages of the process of acquisition, encouraging the dissemination of suitable technology and development of products through research and the choice of results and solutions that have the least impact possible on the environment throughout the entire life cycle» Mirco Melato underscores.
Integrated recovery services
For the Mepol Group, the concept of circular economy does not end with the design of a new compound, but embraces the entire production process, which is implemented through the network of clients and suppliers, through which secondary raw materials or the by-products of an industry become input for another.
This concept has been perfected by Polar (Ferrara, Italy), the group company that developed its work around recovery, regeneration and the sale of plastics derived from industrial and post-consumer waste.
All the recycled polymers delivered by Polar are certified to CSI Recycled Plastics or CSI Plastics from byproducts, having met the requirements set out in Art. 184 bis of Italian Legislative Decree no. 152 of 3/4/2006 and UNI 10667:2010.
«This authorized network (Mepol and Polar both hold authorization to recover non-harmful waste using simplified procedures in accordance with Art. 214-216 of Italian Legislative Decree no. 152/2006; Mepol is also authorized as a transporter) enables us to safely create a “closed cycle” between the supplier of the material, the collection and treatment of the waste (with waste and scrap as by-products) and the recovery of the same during formulation of Eco-Compounds or other applications» Melato points out.
«Sometimes, however, because of the final result or regulation standards (for example, for food contact or the medical sector), the application does not permit the use of material that has already gone through a usage cycle, instead requiring virgin or top-quality material» the Mepol Group CEO continues.
Compounding processes support these needs through the study and testing of materials produced in line with certification specifications (Reg. CE “REACh” no. 1907/2006, Dir. “RoHS” 2002/95/CE, WRAS, ACS, etc.) and the subsidiary ITI Polymers (Ferrara, Italy) was able to create a network of the major producers of plastics and end clients who need targeted, professional distribution attentive to individual needs.
The range of products distributed is very wide: it includes the entire material portfolio of the MOL group (which has merged Slovnaft and TVK), polystyrene by Synthos, polypropylene by Chevron Philips and, exclusively for Italy, the entire Ruichem range of titanium dioxide. «Thanks to this approach, integrated throughout all of our companies, the client but also the supplier becomes part of a system that provides protection from a regulatory standpoint, and that supports a sustainable economy, attentive to the quality of the product as well as respect for the environment» Melato concludes.
The model created by the Mepol Group in Italy is replicated in Northern Europe by its associate ITI Poland (Gniewkowo, Poland). The company uses a post-industrial and post-consumer plastic recovery plant, which includes the selection, washing, grinding, densification and extrusion of the compound. Its production capacity is as high as 20,000 tons a year. Already certified to standard ISO 9001 and 14001, ITI Poland has obtained prestigious compliance with the Ikea IWAY standards and GO/NO GO compliance with quality and laboratory standards.