We want to close the circle. One strategy we are pursuing here is taking the materials we use to manufacture our products and feeding as many as we can back into the production cycle. The idea behind it is to reuse complete components in new machines without changing their composition. This is a strategy we have employed successfully for many years with our counter-balance weights, which we source from Slovakia (1,200 kilometres away). These grey cast-iron parts ensure that washing machines have sufficient mass to remain stable. “Our Swiss recycler now removes the grey cast-iron parts from our washing machines, which we install directly in new machines without any loss of quality. This enables us to reduce both material use and transport emissions,” explains Ernst Dober, Head of Innovation Services & Technology at V-ZUG. Materials can also be returned to the cycle in separated or mixed form.
Solutions offering huge potential for sustainable business models
We conducted the following trials while working in partnership with the Bremgarten-based plastics manufacturer Georg UTZ AG, which produces bases for washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers for V-ZUG: First, we removed the plastic element from the recycler so it could be used for granulate production once again. UTZ AG then used the granulate to mould new washing machine bases. Our second trial consisted of removing 50 plastic bases from old washing machines and transferring them to UTZ AG, which ground them down to manufacture new parts. The material is moulded into plastic bases, which, in turn, are used in new V-ZUG appliances. A decision is yet to be made as to which of the two approaches will be rolled out. “We firmly believe that solutions such as this show great potential when it comes to establishing new, sustainable business models in our value chain,” states Dober. Georg UTZ AG is also pleased at how the partnership has evolved: “We are delighted to work with V-ZUG, a partner that is just as keen as we are to advance innovative solutions in pursuit of an economy that prioritises recycling. This project has enabled us to keep our plastics within the V-ZUG production cycle for as long as possible – and at a high level of quality. Who knows – there may be a chance of giving these plastic bases yet another lease of life in the future.” Roger Käser, Key Account Manager at Georg UTZ AG.