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How Europe’s polymer industry helped mould an environmentally-friendly best practice

06 Apr, 2020 | published at 16:19 CET

Rinus de Kok

Transposing the vowels ‘a’ and ‘e’ can completely change the meaning of a word – and the reputation of an industry, according to the leading logistics expert behind an environmental badge of honour for best practice across the plastics sector supply chain.

Rinus de Kok, commercial director of PRS Return System, Europe’s only supplier of pooling services for sustainable wooden pallets for the Polymer Industry, argues the plastic industry is re-shaping its image by helping to mould the widespread adoption of circularity across the polymer sector.

“When I introduced myself to the plastics industry customers, I said we are in the business of moving pallets. They said they too were involved with producing pellets, but we soon realised we were talking at cross purposes as they were referring to the pellets with an ‘e’ that are converted into plastic products, while I was talking about the humble wooden pallet with an ‘a’ that helps move their products around Europe.  

“The magic word here is circularity – the essence of the PRS Return System we use for the use and re-use of our pallets. A quarter of a century ago, PRS designed a standard pallet for the polymer industry and every year, a total of five million of these pallets are moved across Europe. They are repatriated from more than 15,000 locations via PRS’s central collection service, which includes 40 depots and repair centres coordinated through a dedicated IT platform.”

Green Label launch

In 2019 PRS launched the ‘Green Label’ initiative to recognise the efforts made by polymer customers to reduce the industry-wide carbon footprint.

PRS, part of the Faber Halbertsma Group, launched the initiative as a ‘badge of honour’ last year for businesses in the plastic supply chains who cooperate to achieve a maximum recovery with the company.

“We have been really successful in getting the message out there as the whole initiative has gathered momentum and popularity.

“This is because they know they need to give us the pallets back and this all adds to a better, more sustainable world – and in return we are recognising their contribution to circularity,” added Rinus.

The large-scale operation requires buy-in from the industry to ensure the pallets are used multiple times to reduce waste and then, when they are at the end of their useful life, they are used as biomass.

“It is our responsibility to make sure that all those on the polymer supply chain from manufacturers and  converters to distributors and traders - co-operate as well and they are not, for example, re-selling the pallets to third parties or burning them, but keeping them separate until we will come and collect them,” he said.

“When our customers are talking to their customers, it is part of an education programme that they can use the Green Label when they demonstrate their co-operation with the scheme. Our pallet is becoming part of their sustainability strategy.

“The Green Label allows us to show that we are not just another pallet supplier. By using our pallets and our service, our customers can contribute to the circular economy.”

Rinus de Kok