Set to help flexible packaging converters save on electrical input costs and meet brand owners’ demands for carbon footprint reduction is a solvent destruction system from Germany’s RELOX TECHNIK. Nici Solomon unpacks the benefits of this technology, now marketed in South Africa by Ipex Machinery.
Earlier this month, RELOX TECHNIK MD, Siegfried Woitkowitz, undertook a three-day visit to a number of KwaZulu-Natal’s flexible packaging plants along with directors of Ipex Machinery, newly-appointed local agent. They were gathering insights into these operations and helping converters to prepare for the implications of the impending Air Quality Management Act.
Accompanied by Ipex Machinery’s MD, Bruce Allen, and Cape-based director, Stephen Wood, Siegfried met flexible packaging converters in Durban and Pinetown, educating them about the environmental benefits and cost-savings of harnessing the heat generated during the solvent destruction process for drying the webs on central impression flexographic and rotogravure printing presses. ‘We were very well received wherever we went,’ says Stephen Wood, ‘and were encouraged by the fact that some converters had already commenced investigations into this technology.’
As explained by Siegfried Woitkowitz, this technology produces clean air (reducing hydro carbon emissions) from the exhaust system by utilising a regenerative thermal oxidiser for solvent destruction. ‘This self-sustaining thermal combustion process operates at around 800°C and has a 95% heat efficiency quotient. Heat is released during this process and can be returned to the press (via heat exchangers) to run the dryers, without any further electrical input costs,’ he says.
A win-win combination of ecology and economy
According to Bruce Allen, Ipex is a progressive company, continually looking for ‘firsts’.
‘Stephen attended the Plastics Recycling World Exhibition in Germany at the end of June with the objective of finding opportunities in environmental market applications, offering clear benefits and payback periods,’ Bruce relates. ‘There he encountered RELOX TECHNIK, and Siegfried’s initial South African visit is the direct result of that meeting.’
Carbon footprint, Bruce adds, is a global buzzword and multinational consumer goods manufacturers, in particular, are driving reduction initiatives across their supply chains in order to achieve as small a footprint as possible.
In today’s testing economic climate, cost-saving measures are high on everybody’s agenda but, as Bruce concedes, it’s going to be challenging for converters to commit capex to a one-, two- or three-year downstream payback (the time depends on the number of presses being run).
He’s confident, however, that the implementation of this solvent destruction technology, described as a ‘win-win combination of ecology and economy’, will be driven by companies with high environmental awareness and the impending promulgation of legislation – the Draft National Framework for Air Quality Management (Act 39 of 2004) is currently being reviewed.
‘We’re committed to assisting printers and converters reduce their environmental impacts,’ he concludes.