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Ragus’ baler: our sustainable solution to plastics waste
In July 2021, Ragus invested in a baler as a sustainable solution to one of our waste-streams. Six months on from the purchase, this class-leading piece of machinery has exceeded our predictions, proving beneficial not only to the environment, but also to business.
Plastics waste within the food industry
Ragus manufactures bulk sugars and syrups for industry, and – like many large-scale manufacturers – we have a duty of care to ensure that waste is disposed of with an environmental consciousness. One of our biggest waste-streams is the large polypropylene bags used for storing and transporting products. A versatile plastic, popular within the food manufacturing industry, these bags are ideal for ensuring the safe delivery of incoming raw materials to our factory.
Plastic waste produced by the food industry is a timely topic, with packaging waste in this sector growing by 2% annually in Europe and 4% globally. Of all the environmental problems, plastics waste has consistently been voted the most pressing, and there is a pressure on manufacturers to reduce the amount of plastics they dispose of.
Traditionally, to dispose of these polypropylene bags, manufacturers would take them to a compacter. This machine – as the name suggests – would compact the waste down to a manageable size. The compressed plastics waste could then be burnt in an incinerator or disposed of via landfill. Using a compacter remains a popular disposal method within large-scale industry, though the result is that the potential raw material (polypropylene) is lost forever, and as such, a higher carbon footprint is attached to this method.
Seeking sustainable solutions
At Ragus, we are committed to exploring the most sustainable options at every point in our product’s journey, from field all the way to delivery. In studying our factory output, we found that as our waste-stream increased, it became viable to purchase a baler. After much market research, our baler was installed last July by supplier Compact and Bale, with help from their experienced team.
In much the same way as a hay-baler collects and packs hay into a tight structure, the polypropylene bags are fed into the machine, which compresses them down to produce a bale made of plastic. This polypropylene bale can be stored much more easily on the Ragus site due to its compact size, resulting in a space-saving solution as well as an environmental one.
The environmental success of utilising a baler lies in the ability of specialist recycling companies to grind down the bales and produce good quality polypropylene feedstock which can then in turn be processed into new material. This provides an added bonus to business since plastic waste can yield attractive rebate rates.
Promising results: environmental and financial
It has been six months since the baler was first installed at Ragus and we’re pleased to say that the results have exceeded our predictions in terms of both environmental effect and financial saving. Six months on and over 32 tonnes of polypropylene big bags have been baled by the machine and bought by plastics recycling companies for repurposing. This is a huge achievement for Ragus and demonstrates the waste-saving possibilities that can be attained when manufacturers invest in sustainable solutions.
Not only has the baler had huge environmental effects, it has also proved to be an important business investment for us at Ragus. Six months after purchase, there has been 58% payback, and we expect that a year on from installation the machine will have paid for itself entirely. This is due not only to the cost cut-down from reducing the frequency of our compactor trips, but also profit made from selling the plastic bales to recycling companies.
Our sustainability commitment
At Ragus our commitment to corporate social responsibility underpins our operations. We are proud to be leading the food industry on duties of resource-efficiency and sustainable production.
By investing in a baler, Ragus were able to join a circular economy. The output of the polypropylene bags waste-stream is no longer incinerated and lost. Instead by compressing the plastics and selling the product to be recycled, this manufacturing waste is converted into something useful that puts back into our industry. This benefits the environment but also benefits us, and so the outcome of seeking sustainable solutions goes hand in hand with improving business.
We constantly monitor our waste streams to ensure as little waste as possible goes to landfill, and the installation of the baler was a crucial action in taking further steps to reduce this. As of July 2021, Ragus are now zero-to-landfill, and we hope other industries adopt this commitment.
This is just one of our many projects committing to social responsibility. Where possible, we avoid single-use plastic in favour of reusable containers that can go on to be used in other industries with different specification requirements. We are always looking out for ways to reduce our consumption streams for future improvement.
Joining Ragus in 2017, Henry is the fifth generation of the Eastick family to work in the business. He has worked across our company, implementing plant and technology improvements in the factory to working in the lab developing a knowledge for our products. He focuses on our raw materials procurement as well as leading our digital transformation, adapting new technology and plant to meet our needs. His deep interest in nature and sustainability makes him a dedicated and passionate CSR manager.