In our manufacturing plants in Slovakia and Thailand, Datamars has made major strides in the responsible production of plastic products, with comprehensive methods in place to recycle over 60% of plastic waste within our manufacturing processes at these two sites.

As an organisation, we are taking an active approach to clearly understand, monitor and improve the impact we have on communities and the environment. In our manufacturing hubs, our teams are focused on best practice reuse and reduction of plastic waste, with over 325 tonnes reused back in production by our Slovakia and Thailand plants in 2020.

This recycled plastic waste, called regrind, is created from the plastic runner (or the leftover edging) that remains after molding a plastic product, such as a tag. Instead of being scrapped, the runner is ground into small parts and re-used in production. In Slovakia a total 188 tonnes of regrind was used in production in 2020, representing 74% of the plastic that  could have been wasted if not recycled, and in Thailand the figure was 140 tonnes which is about 53%.

Not all products are able to incorporate the use of regrind due to quality limitations (for example, regrind cannot be used in certain Pet ID products) and historically a typical product may only be made up of 10 to 20% regrind. In Slovakia Martin Miškovič, Quality Supervisor, says the team has been working to improve the percentage of regrind able to be used in each product through a ‘regrind usage’ project started in May 2020. So far this project has seen 43 products go from using 10-20% regrind, to 100%.

“For the project, we analyse the manufacture of each product one at a time, working on methods to increase the percentage of regrind used. We test the quality of the tag by exerting extraction force on it and if needed we make adjustments. Once quality is reached we validate production of the product,” says Martin.

In Thailand, as well as the use of regrind, Martin Hustadt, Injection Molding Manager, says the team is working to reduce the amount of plastic runner produced with new technology, using hot injection molding tools instead of cold.

“The initial outlay for the hot tools is more costly than for cold, but the precision of the hot injection molding tools, means that runner is either completely eliminated, or significantly reduced.

“Other ways we reduce runner is to revaluate how older products are manufactured, then redesign the production of these products to optimise outputs and decrease waste in the production process,” says Martin.

Where runner can’t be reused, for example a small product run in a specific colour, Martin says the Injection Molding team has improved its recycling practices and seen a decreasing trend in the amount of plastic wasted.

“We have implemented better sorting processes and educated staff on these processes to be able to sell the runner we can’t reuse for recycling. In 2018 75% of plastic waste was non-saleable, today in 2021, through improving sorting processes, 75% of plastic waste can now be sold.

Our North American team also recently began their journey to use regrind in manufacture, starting a project in 2020 to introduce it to the manufacture of some tips. With one tonne of regrind material used to date, the team believes it has a lot of future scope to increase regrind and reduce waste by incorporating it into tag production.

Datamars Thailand and Datamars North America are both currently on the journey to be certified for ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems this year. Being ISO14001 certified means that environmental issues relevant to our operations, such as air pollution, water and waste management, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and resource use and efficiency are all considered.

Datamars Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland are already certified to ISO14001 standards and we are committed to achieving this in all our major sites worldwide. This work, alongside our global climate impact assessment, which provides a data benchmark for major climate impact factors and targets to help guide our improvement, position us well to continually build on these great efforts and make a measurable difference to sustainability worldwide.