Solutions & Co

Næstved seeks to become an international recycling hub

Thomas Færgeman Politiken | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on November 17, 2015

A heap of dirty, broken glass collected from around the country is a valuable resource. A hi-tech glass sorting plant has been set up in the old factory building at Maglemølle in the center of Næstved. It is operated by the German company Reiling.   -  Finn Frandsen

The photo shows the final product. In the process, tile, metal scraps, plastic and paper have been filtered out, and clear glass has been separated from tinted glasse. Reiling is now taking in glass from one of the other companies in the harbor area, and the next step is to may be to supply some of the neighboring businesses with excess material from Reiling’s production. Glass dust, for instance, can be used for insulation.   -  Finn Frandsen

Næstved has launched Ressource City – where one company’s waste is another company’s raw materials. A Swedish and a German company have joined the project too.

From the outside, the building looks like a structure from the early days of the British Industrial Revolution. But inside is one of the most advanced plants for sorting glass – in fact, so advanced that the German owner is reluctant to allow us to take close-up pictures of it, fearing that competitors might unearth the trade secrets behind it.

There is fierce competition between glass-recycling companies. The ability to turn a profit depends on the efficiency and the technological level of production – along with a slight dose of business acumen.

“Modern European glass factories have been remodeled to recycle used glass and they are very happy about that, because it is far cheaper than new raw materials and you cut your energy bills by 30 to 40 percent energy with used glass”, says Kim Lykke, department manager at Reiling Glass Recycling Danmark, part of the German Reiling Group.

Tough competition for used glass

“As a result, there is fierce competition to acquire used glass at the right price, and you can make a lot of money if the sorting of glass is done correctly”, he says. He is in charge of buying used glass on behalf of the company and has noticed that the market has changed dramatically. It costs much more to acquire used glass. Even wine bottles tossed in bottle banks all over Denmark have become valuable products.

Reiling decided to settle in the middle of Næstved in an old paper factory, Maglemølle, which operated from the 1930s until 2012 when its remaining activities ceased. The area is located close to the port and the Næstved Canal, providing direct access to the Baltic Sea and the Great Belt.

Many of the buildings have been deemed preservation-worthy – yet several of them are worn down. It has been a challenge to find the means to maintain the buildings and as a result, the local authorities are trying to encourage new companies to move in.

On this issue, Kim Lykke is pleased.

“We have to commend Næstved Municipality for being so accommodating, efficient and helpful when we came knocking on their door. They want to become a recycling mecca”, he says.

Insisting on an industrial centre

It took some time for Kim Lykke to persuade the German owners that it made sense to set up shop in Næstved. Today the company has 35 people employed there.

“My German colleagues were less confident. They didn’t think it was possible for a company like ours to be allowed to settle in the middle of a city. That would never have happened in Germany. But Næstved Municipality was accommodating in a way that allowed us to start producing quickly”, says Kim Lykke.

The Reiling plant runs 24 hours a day on weekdays and is designed to be operational on weekends as well.

Sara Vergo from Næstved Municipality chips in:

“Historically speaking, we have always had an industrial area in Maglemølle, and every citizen has at least one relative who has worked at the paper factory. It’s part of the city’s DNA to have industrial companies located near the port”, she says.

Sara Vergo serves as project manager for ‘Ressource City’, which is the name of the venture created in conjunction with Maglemølle Business Park. The goal is to attract companies that recycle each other’s materials, and the ambition is to create 100 new jobs and attract at least ten recycling companies over the next few years in the hope of creating a snowball effect.

“Ressource City fits in at Maglemølle. It is possible to re-establish the industrial area using the old factory buildings – while respecting the environment, naturally – and with a location in the middle of Næstved and direct access to the port, this area is ideal for both businesses and regular visitors”, says Sara Vergo.

Windows transformed into jam jars

Located next to Reiling is Swedish Ragn-Sells, another company that specialises in recycling and reuse.

Ragn-Sells receives waste from other industrial companies – while also receiving containers dispatched from waste recovery sites all over Denmark.

One of the containers is full of old doors and windows. And Ragn-Sells has struck a deal with Reiling to allow it to acquire the glass found in the windows.

“We break the windows and the doors and conduct a preliminary sorting of wood and metal materials. Reiling then acquires the clear glass to be used in their production”, says Mads Nissen, machine operator and foreman at the Ragn-Sells plant in Næstved.

“This is the type of recycling we want to promote through Ressource City”, says Sara Vergo.

Ressource City is currently in the process of establishing a general office that will be tasked with attracting and servicing companies. For the time being, the employees are residing in a former barrack located close by.

Næstved City Council sees great potential in the project, having provided DKK 3 million in funding. The money will be used for recruiting employees for the general office, strategic development and setting up permanent structures in Kraftcentralen, the former power station, which used to supply electricity and heating for the paper factory.

Additionally, the National Agency of Environmental Protection has provided Ressource City with DKK 3.5 million in funding. The money will be used to fuel innovation and job creation by focusing on entrepreneurship.

“We are making a determined effort to recruit and support companies interested in joining the project. We want to offer companies a professional assessment to uncover whether there is a potential for conserving resources. This screening will be free”, says Sara Vergo.

Many cities are focused on attracting scientists, tech professionals and others specialising in high-tech. Why is Næstved moving in this direction?

“First and foremost, recycling often is high-tech – consider the Reiling colour-optic sorting system. Second, it is our belief that in the future, rapid population growth will make the price of materials increase and as a result the demand for materials will grow, making it much more profitable than it is today”, she says.

The Ressource City general office will provide mentoring, support for green business development, shared office facilities and a workshop with modern machines that will contribute to the development of new prototypes.

Is PVC recyclable?

Foreman at Ragn-Sells, Mads Nissen, says that they receive 5 tonnes of PVC every week, primarily in the shape of sheets used for garden sheds and carports.

“It takes up a lot of space and it has to be transported to a special waste site. We are unable to recycle it and it is too toxic to incinerate”, says Mads Nissen.

“This is something we would very much like to try to solve. If Ressource City is able to convince a few students from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) to take a look at this and find a solution, we’d be thrilled”, says Sara Vergo.

Maglemølle’s total floor area covers 60,000 square metres divided between 79 buildings, leaving plenty of room for development.

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Published on November 17, 2015
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