Profile of the IKK

Numerous plastic products accompany us consciously or unconsciously in our daily life: toothbrush, clothing, smartphones or computer, household and sport appliances, furniture or automotive. Plastics are used in these applications due to their excellent processing and performance properties as well as a characteristics profile adjustable over a wide range.  

Many industrial areas, like building sector, medicine or the entire leisure, transport and packaging sectors would have been unthinkable without plastics. Furthermore, the mega trends, like lightweight, communication, electromobility would have been not possible without polymer materials. 

© Christian Wyrwa

The so far very successful economic system of the plastics industry yet represents in many areas a model of a linear economy. Thereby, the performance characteristics and processing properties have been and are being optimized entirely independent of the "end-of-life situation". As a result of the growing awareness, it is clear that many properties, which are beneficial in the use phase, often associate with some challenges during recycling of plastics.

In parallel to the success story of plastics, the use of petro-based raw materials as a polymer feedstock and the durability of the plastics represent a growing ecological problem in the case an inappropriate disposal, as it is also seen from the steadily growing marine litter problematic. Similarly, as for glass, metal or paper, a consistent introduction of a circular economy into the plastics’ sector is required.

The Packaging Act was a promising approach to make the producers or the so-called "distributing companies" of packaging responsible for their disposal and recycling. With the Dual Systems, such as Der Grüne Punkt the direct recycling responsibility was lifted from the packaging manufacturers and thus at the same time the design of a packaging was decoupled from its recyclability.

  • Circular economy

    Growing environmental awareness promotes the systematic introduction of the circular economy. In analogy to natural organic cycles, this approach represents a technically regenerative system, where the plastic waste that arises after production (post-production) as well as after the service life of products (post-consumer) can be recycled and reused as effectively as possible. The economic and ecological basis for post-consumer recycling are products and materials, in the development and design of which the subsequent recyclability is taken into account to a much greater extent (design for recycling) as well as a material and product design that allows the use of the generated recyclates (design for recyclates).

    On the technical side, the further expansion and establishment of a comprehensive recycling industry in the plastics sector requires a reliable provision of high-quality standardized recyclates. To this end, the strategies for a more effective recycling of plastics and composite materials must be further developed, in particular with regard to the chemical composition, mechanical, thermal, rheological, optical and olfactory properties of the recyclates as well as ecological and socio-economic factors of the corresponding processes.

  • Research focuses

    Therefore, the Institute of Plastics and Circular Economy IKK supports industry in the development of product-specific recycling strategies, practical implementation and optimization of recycling processes, material developments and sustainability assessment. The entire life cycle of plastic products, i.e. material production and processing, process optimization as well as the development and practical examination of sustainable, efficient recycling approaches. An extensive destructive and non-destructive material testing as well as chemical analysis accompany the entire development process. With its expertise in plastics, the IKK complements the professional profile of the PZH at the new Campus for Mechanical Engineering in Garbsen.