A path of research and experimentation
Our company, which has specialised in the production of virgin plastic consumer goods for over 60 years, was the first to invest resources in partnerships with companies involved in the collection and sorting of waste with the aim of nurturing research and development activities on materials, processes, and the use of equipment and services to arrive at a production of household goods made with heterogeneous plastic from separate waste collection.
Collaborations developed with local companies, research institutes and university laboratories have enabled production tests to be carried out that have made the quality of the granule increasingly stable. Once the material was perfected, Utilgreen products were born (this was in 2010).
There are plastics and plastics
Many names, many uses
We often speak generically of ‘plastics’, but the truth is that there are multiple types of plastics – with different characteristics – widely present in the consumer products market.
Here are some examples:
present in bags, bottles for detergents, toys, household goods, films and other packaging
easy to find in furniture items, food containers, carpets, garden furniture, housewares
widely used in egg trays, films, pipes, also in doors, windows, tiles
found in beverage bottles and synthetic fibres
commonly called polystyrene, is used for food, cutlery, plates, caps
With plastics being so widely used, separate collection concerning them is limited to packaging, which makes up a significant percentage of the plastics contained in urban waste (over 50%).
Over the years, separate waste collection and recycling have also evolved: in fact, whereas at the time of the introduction of these practices, collection only concerned bottles and vials, today plastic food packaging (such as bags, boxes, trays and films) can also be collected and recycled. To this day, many products are still excluded which – although of high quality and easily recyclable – do not meet the standards of the Corepla Consortium.
If the different types are sorted homogeneously, secondary raw material is obtained, i.e. with technical and chemical characteristics of the recyclate very similar to the initial ones.
Some examples of products:
- with recycled PET: new (non-food) containers, fibres for upholstery, jumpers, ‘pile’, carpets, car interiors, sheets for various packaging;
- with recycled PVC: pipes, rainwater drains, fittings, grommets, products for the construction industry;
- with recycled PE: containers for detergents, caps, film for rubbish bags, packaging film, housewares;
- with recycled PP: containers for various general uses, a wide range of articles for the construction and furnishing sector, housewares.
Once these materials have been sorted, less noble residues, mixed plastics (plasmix), which until now were destined to end up in landfills or to be burnt in waste-to-energy plants, remain from separate collections.
What our products are made of
Plasmix, meaning mixed plastics
The material Utilgreen products are made of is Plasmix, which simply means mixed plastics from separated waste collection.
The raw material is obtained by sorting and processing mixed plastic waste, such as trays, polyethylene bags, food-grade plastic packaging and packaging films.
Municipal hygiene companies deal with the recovery and sorting of plastic materials, and others with the regeneration of the material by turning it into granules that are then moulded by Utilplastic into buckets, brooms, flowerpots of various sizes, bathroom cleaning items, broom bases, dustpans, brooms.
The waste route
“From home to home”
The path of our products starts in the homes of many environmentally aware people who sort and separate waste.
Collection companies deliver the sorted materials (plastic, in our case) to recycling companies that separate the different types of plastic.
Once the most noble parts have been separated, the residue is processed and transformed into granules that constitute the raw material from which Utilgreen products are made.
The material received from the recyclers is used to obtain a compound that we have researched and fine-tuned with our technicians. Through a suction and mixing plant, which guarantees the qualitative and quantitative control and consistency of the mixture, it is transported to the presses automatically.
When the material arrives at the press, additional additives and colouring agents are added according to the specific product. The material enters a melting chamber and when it reaches the set temperatures it is pushed under high pressure into the mould that will shape the part. All moulding variables are controlled by a computerised system that guarantees quality control and repeatability.
The moulded part is cooled by a dedicated on-board refrigerator that allows the choice of specific temperature parameters for the part. The part is unloaded through a robotic pick-up system into the machine and labelled; it is then placed on a conveyor belt that allows its final cooling without damage. At this point the part is ready for quality control, packaging and dispatch.
The cycle is closed. We have utilised an urban waste hitherto destined for incineration at great economic and environmental cost. We have reduced oil consumption, CO2 and pollutant emissions, and long-distance transport to incineration plants.
We have shown that proper separate collection can achieve tangible and effective results with economic and environmental benefits.