"Developing a sustainability programme from a circular economy perspective in the machine and plastic industry"
, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (JKU), Linz, 10-2020
Developing a sustainability programme from a circular economy perspective in the machine and plastic industry
Sprache des Titels:
The world is in a shift towards developing more sustainable solutions that will lower emissions and provide a positive impact on our environment. The age of linear business models that are characterized with take, make and waste approaches is slowly coming to an end. End-of pipe solutions, greenwashing and other creative ideas to fight against actual change in the way we produce are being eliminated. A transition into a circular economy is arising as a solution for the protection of valuable resources, an end to mindless consumerism and a no waste society, rather reusing resources then wasting those.
This master thesis investigates the relationship between corporate sustainability and a circular economy. Therefore, the thesis is divided into two parts. In the first part, a literature review of the topics corporate sustainability and how to improve a company's performance through the implementation of corporate sustainability management is provided. The chapters emphasize the alignment of economic, ecological, and social goals. Moreover, the origins of circular economy are explained and then the whole approach of circularity is divided into the machine industry with focus on reuse, repair and remanufacturing and the plastic industry with a focus on recycling systems. In the second part, a qualitative case study at an injection molding manufacturer gave an in-depth view about the mentioned topics. The manufacturer is part of the machine and plastic industry. Therefore, it is an ideal example of how to create circularity within the own company and how to be part of a circular value chain in the plastic industry. In order to answer the research question, qualitative research methods like interviews, observation, meetings and document analyses were applied.
The results of the research can be summarized as: Recycling in the plastic industry is a very urgent issue that needs innovative and fast solutions. However, developing those solutions can be a much harder task than expected. On the one hand, plastic recycling is a complex process which still requires a lot of research and work to overcome the inherent challenges, such as contamination, product design, unpredictable material quality, high costs, etc. On the other hand, the remanufacturing system, as explained in literature, is currently not applicable for injection molding manufacturers due to the complexity of the injection molding machines, as well as the difficulty to meet the high quality and safety standards. Nevertheless, taking back old machines after the time of use expired, refurbishing those and offering them back on the secondhand market can be a suitable solution to save resources and energy. In both industries circular economy business models are needed in order to provide the right systems that support the technical outcomes. When applied properly, the transition into a circular economy can lead to the improvement of the corporate sustainability performance of a company.