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How Essentra Components is making manufacturing more sustainable

clock 6 minutes | 11 Feb 2022

Taking responsibility for sustainability in manufacturing

For manufacturers and customers alike, increasing the sustainability of their operations is now a top business priority.

Energy consumption, carbon emissions and waste are just some of the elements that need to be considered in each business’ sustainability strategy.

A particular focus for the Essentra Components team, as a plastic parts manufacturer and distributor, is the 380 million tonnes plus of plastic that’s produced across the world every year. From reducing the amount of waste to upgrading machinery and developing more sustainable plastics, here are some ways Essentra Components is making its operations less impactful on the environment.

#1 Introducing all-electric machinery

Injection moulding machines are at the centre of Essentra Component’s production operation. Since injection moulding technology was introduced, hydraulic machines have been the most common method of production. However, as well as using hydraulic oil, which is difficult to dispose of sustainably, these machines consume high amounts of energy, even when idle.

In comparison, electric injection moulding machines are much more energy efficient and, when optimised, offer great product quality and repeatability levels of production performance in terms of quality and guaranteed repeatability. Surveys conducted by Essentra Components showed that optimised electric machines use the least kWh per kg material, cost less to run and emit less CO2 equivalent per kg material processed. In fact, compared to hydraulic machines, CO2 emissions were reduced by 58%.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) scores have significantly improved too. Two of the new electric injection moulding machines are achieving between 70% and 80%. This compares with an average OEE of 45% for the former hydraulic machines.

In all, nine metrics showed improved results, including energy costs, production speed, efficiency and material wastage.

To improve energy efficiency across all operations, Essentra Components aim to make all of the machines’ electric by the end of 2031. This is part of a machinery replacement programme which will upgrade any hydraulic models as they come to their end-of-life. To date, 180 machines have been replaced by all-electric or hybrid machines, with 32 more identified for replacement in the next 12 months, ensuring a continuous reduction in carbon impact.

#2 Increasing use of post-consumer recycled plastic content

Recycled plastic content

As part of its commitment to improving the sustainability of customer products, Essentra Components is focusing on increasing the amount of post-consumer recycled plastics across its polypropylene (PP) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) product lines.

A combination of investment in new machinery and optimisations in production mean that Essentra Components has been able to surpass its aim to reach a ratio of 20:80 post-consumer to virgin resin. Since April 2021, the plant in Kidlington, Oxfordshire has been mixing virgin plastic resins with recycled packaging from the bottled drinks industry. To date, around 57 million LDPE plastic components have contained at least 40% recycled plastics.

As well as maintaining the same level of quality, accuracy and durability in these parts, Essentra Components is now aiming to reach a 60:40 ratio of recycled to virgin plastics over the coming months. This will move the business closer to its aim of using at least 20% sustainably sourced materials across its product portfolio by 2025.

#3 Reporting on environmental progress

Although reporting on sustainable metrics such as carbon emissions, waste and energy consumption has become a legislative requirement for many businesses in the UK, Essentra Components has committed to reporting this data as part of its global commitment to the environment.

Working alongside environmental action charity CPD and trusted ratings provider Ecovadis, Essentra Plc reports its sustainable performance and publishes its ratings to provide maximum transparency for stakeholders and customers. This ensures that the business remains accountable and shows its commitment to the environment.

#4 Saving energy

25 per cent reduction in emissions

As well as introducing more energy efficient machinery, the Essentra Components team is working hard to optimise the consumption of each global site. Alongside energy saving initiatives within manufacturing operations, the business is also focusing on reducing consumption across offices and sites, from introducing LED lighting to educating employees.

Each of these initiatives contribute towards Essentra Component’s ambitious carbon targets, including a 25% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 and making direct operations completely carbon neutral by 2040.

#5 Developing more sustainable plastics

Whether they’re manufactured entirely or in part from bio-based materials or are biodegradable, the development of bioplastic materials is seen as a major step towards reducing the environmental impact of many industries. Indeed, by 2030, bioplastics are predicted to make up around 40% of the total plastics market.

Currently, Essentra Components is investing in several research and development projects focusing on sustainable alternatives to virgin polymers. By balancing the requirements for quality and accuracy with the need for increased sustainability, the team are trialling materials such as bio-based polymers derived from plants and biodegradable additives blended with recycled and virgin resins.

#6 Reducing waste

Zero waste to landfill

As part of its aim to be Zero Waste To Landfill certified by 2030, Essentra Components is optimising its operations to track and reduce any plastic waste.

Plastic pellet loss is a major risk to the environment and is a priority that the team are working to address.

As well as becoming a signatory of the British Plastic Federation’s Operation Clean Sweep which ensures that no plastic pellets, flakes or powders will enter seas or rivers, the operations team are making continuous improvements to reduce waste. This includes changing from manual sprue picking to using a tool, which has reduced the number of parts lost from around 6,000 on average to just 26. By tracking this waste closely, the team can continue to monitor and reduce its environmental impact.

#7 Getting ahead of legislation

As well as delivering corporate and customer commitments, Essentra Component’s focus on sustainability means the business is ahead of global environmental legislations. Improving internal knowledge of these laws is also key to reassuring our customers and stakeholders:

  • The European Union Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUP), which aims to prevent and reduce the environmental impact of certain plastics.
  • The EU Plastic Packaging Levy, which charges €800 per tonne of non-recyclable plastic packaging waste.
  • The UK Plastic Packaging Tax, which will come into place in April 2022 and charge €240 per tonne of plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic content.
  • The US Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA), which targets plastic reduction and, although not currently law, is gaining political momentum.
  • The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which makes businesses accountable for their products at the end of their life.

#8 Becoming part of the circular economy

Alongside taking individual action, becoming part of the circular economy is key to making real reductions in the environmental impact of industry. As such, Essentra Components have become a signatory of the European Commission’s Circular Plastics Alliance.

This not only shows the business’ commitment to increasing the use of recycled polymer raw materials in its product range, but, alongside other signatories, increasing the European recycled plastics market to ten million tonnes by 2025.

#9 Supporting customers’ sustainability goals

Supporting customers

By setting its own ambitious corporate goals, developing effective initiatives and committing to continuous improvements, Essentra Components is helping its customers to reach their own environmental objectives. By remaining transparent about its progress and working alongside customers to provide more sustainable solutions, Essentra Components is reducing its environmental impact while still delivering a hassle-free service to its customers.

Sustainable manufacturing