RECIPE for energy savings

A radical new programme for saving energy and associated cost in plastics processing is now underway in Europe. Launched at Rapra Technology last month, and entitled RECIPE (Reduced Energy Consumption in Plastics Engineering), the multi European venture involves partner organisations from six European countries that are now set to establish and promote best energy-saving practice in plastics processing across Europe. The initiative is part of the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy – Europe programme.

Thousands of European plastics processors will be invited to take part in a benchmarking survey this year. The plastics processing industry will also be invited to assist in the development of an ‘energy manager’s toolkit’ and in developing a cost-of-ownership model for plastics processing equipment. The RECIPE initiative was established by the Faraday Plastics and Polymers Partnership and will be administered by Rapra Technology, a European polymer research and test house.

Rebecca Dolbey, project leader, says ‘the overall objective of the proposed action is to provide the European plastics processing industry with the knowledge, justification and tools required to reduce energy consumption, through the implementation of best practice, and the adoption of new technology.’

Dolbey adds that ‘there are more than 27,000 companies in the EU that specialise in plastics processing, employing around one million people, many in small and medium sized enterprises. Every one of these enterprises has the potential to save energy, and thus reduce or contain their energy bill.’

Plastics processing is a well documented consumer of electricity for motors and drives, heating, cooling, and lighting. However, there is currently a tendency to view energy costs as fixed overheads. A key aim of the proposed new RECIPE programme will be to alter this perception, and to demonstrate that energy purchase should be considered as a variable materials cost, with substantial potential for reductions to be made.

Many of RECIPE’s target companies are processing substantial volumes of commodity materials, for applications in highly cost-driven markets such as packaging, domestic goods, and construction. They are currently facing intense competition from lower wage economies, as well as significant increases in the prices they pay for energy.

RECIPE research has shown that if it were possible to reduce energy consumption across plastics processing in Europe by 10%, this would then result in an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of more than three million tonnes.

In the UK, Action Energy estimated that savings of 15% could be made in the sector by undertaking simple measures of the type prescribed in best practice. In addition, various currently available ‘energy saving’ technologies claim savings of between 5 and 45% on component processes. RECIPE considers that an average saving of 10% is achievable within all companies that can be encouraged to engage with the proposed actions.

In the UK, the new RECIPE work will interface with the work from Faraday Plastics on energy and energy management. Faraday is set to do further work on its Technology Road Map for low energy polymer processing –published last year. An initial consultation with industry experts resulted in a 15-year strategy, which will be developed and refined over time.

Rapra and Faraday Plastics’ partners in the project include the BPF, who bring to the consortium their experience in providing best practice guidance to UK industry.