The inauguration ceremony of the plant, held on 10 March, was hosted by Dansk Retursystem Chief Executive Officer Lars Krejberg Petersen and attended by guests of honor Frederick, Crown Prince of Denmark and Lea Wermelin, Minister of the Environment. The plant will process the PET bottles and aluminium cans collected throughout the country via the return system, producing bales of PET bottles and aluminium cans for recycling. With a capacity of 110 m3 per hour, it is expected to process around 55 % of the country’s recycled cans and PET bottles for a total of more than 25 000 tonnes of material a year, working 16 hours a day on two shifts, for 300 days a year.
A successful private-public collaboration for a circular economy
Dansk Retursystem is a non-profit company owned by Danish breweries and regulated by statutory order under the Danish Environmental Protection Act. Founded in 2000, it operates the country’s deposit and return system for beverage bottles and cans with the aim of recycling as many as possible into new ones. All profits are reinvested into the company to improve the system and ensure that the high return rate is maintained or raised even further. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency monitors Dansk Retursystem’s activities and periodically reviews its operation to renew its exclusive right to operate the country’s deposit and return system for a new term.
Dansk Retursystem is an excellent example of a successful collaboration between the private and public sectors. Its business model creates a circular economy that involves the entire chain: beverage packaging manufacturers, breweries, retailers, consumers, transport companies, and sorting recycling companies. Dansk Retursystem collects bottles and cans from reverse vending machines found at 3000 stores across the country, from retailers, shops, offices, cafés and restaurants, or through the “pantstation” deposit return banks located in 12 cities. It sorts all the collected packaging into glass and plastic bottles and aluminium cans, which are recycled into new packaging. The result of this extremely effective system is that 9 out of 10 bottles marked for deposit are returned and recycled, with very little waste in the process.
STADLER’s high-capacity automated plant: a key link in the return circular economy
Efficient and precise sorting of the collected bottles and cans is crucial to the success of Dansk Retursystem’s operation, so the company opted for a Europe-wide tender process to select the supplier for its new plant. In STADLER the company found “a dedicated professional integrator capable of providing an end-to-end solution for material streams,” explains Lars Krejberg Petersen, Dansk Retursystem CEO, who is also very satisfied with the support received throughout the project: “STADLER also performed very well on the soft parameters.”
Having won the tender, STADLER designed the plant and started assembly in November 2019. The plant uses magnetic separation to sort the aluminium cans, ejecting any ferrous materials, and Near Infrared (NIR) technology for the PET bottles. Also part of the process is the removal of loose labels. At the end of the line, balers compact the aluminium cans on one output line and PET bottles on the other.
The project presented particular challenges due to the high level of automatization and flexibility of the plant, which required STADLER’s ingenuity to develop a tailored solution. Armin Winand, joint project manager explains: “This is a fully automated sorting plant with a high throughput. We addressed this with extra-large intermediate bunkers with a capacity up to 240 m³ at various stages of the process and a similarly oversized bunker conveyor 20 m long, 4 m wide and 4 m high. This is the biggest STADLER has ever designed and built. At the end of the process, the aluminium and PET bales are transported automatically into the storage area.”
“The plant also stands out for its extreme flexibility, which allows the customer to select different operating modes according to requirements,” adds Urban Konzic of the Sales team. “Also, management of the unloading of incoming materials is automated, with the STADLER system indicating to the delivery truck drivers in which of 5 bunkers they should unload.”
This is STADLER’s first project for Dansk Retursystem, which is impressed with the design and execution of the project: “Dansk Retursystems’ experience with recycling combined with STADLER’s vast experience with building plants means that we will have a fully automatized and highly technological plant that will ensure an even more efficient recycling of cans and bottles. This will benefit the environment and the climate,” concludes Lars Krejberg Petersen.