What is the RIGK-PICKUP-SYSTEM?
The RIGK-PICKUP-SYSTEM is a return system, with which RIGK collects empty packaging from end customers throughout Germany and ensures recycling is carried out legally. For distributors, who as per the German Packaging Act are obliged to take back the packaging they bring into circulation, RIGK offers a simple and legal possibility to meet this obligation in Germany in the form of the PICKUP-SYSTEM. We differentiate return systems between bring systems and collect systems. In bring systems end customers have to bring their empty packaging to the nearest collection point themselves. This is not the case with the PICKUP-SYSTEM. Instead, the packaging is collected directly from end customers. RIGK provides the necessary logistics with the PICKUP-SYSTEM but does not operate its own recycling infrastructure.
Is there a limit on how many tonnes are offered for collection per year?
No, the distributor decides together with us which quantity and at which intervals the specific packaging will be collected. We can meet the needs of distributors and their end customers highly individually.
Who can use the RIGK-PICKUP-SYSTEM?
First of all, the distributor (filler/retailer) has to agree a contract with us. The end customers who register with us can then register the packaging originating from these manufacturers/retailers and use the PICKUP-SYSTEM. This means end customers cannot just register any packaging for collection, but only packaging we have agreed licensing agreements for. We can agree the collection cycle individually with end customers and the frequency ranges from once a year to six times a year or even more often.
What can be delivered using the PICKUP-SYSTEM?
Under the general term “packaging” we differentiate between empty, rinsed and non-rinsed. The minimum requirement for collection is emptied packaging. There are certain acceptance conditions for this that explain what we understand them to mean. Put simply, if packaging is turned upside down, nothing must come out of it. Another differentiation is the danger of the contents to people and the environment of what was in the packaging. This means we collect packaging of non-hazardous and hazardous substances. For example, these can be chemical products, such as acids or less reactive substances used for water treatment, like disinfectants used for maintaining water pipes. In the Big Bags segment these substances can be fertilisers or seeds. What applies in practice is the cleaner and less mixed the packaging, the easier and more cheaply recycling can be carried out.
How exactly does the delivery process work?
We use a registration process. End customers can register their packaging with us for a set period up to six times a year. 14 days before the registration period, they are requested by email to register their quantities with us by mail in writing. We provide an interactive form for this. Then, we commission one of our local service providers to collect the empty packaging from the end customer within the next 10 working days. The filler/retailer bears the costs of the return service. In the PICKUP-SYSTEM customers decide the frequency of collections.
This is the beauty of the PICKUP-SYSTEM. We individually adapt it to customer needs. RIGK is not subject to many requirements here but can find solutions directly with customers instead. The close contact with distributors and end customers is another huge plus point of the PICKUP-SYSTEM. I’ll give you an example. A fertiliser producer wanted to offer retrospective returns to its end customers that had not reached the minimum quantity. We’ve offered this possibility for the first time this year. End customers could bring their Big Bags to our collection points so we could achieve an even higher return rate.
Your website frequently mentions “trademark users”. What exactly does that mean here?
A trademark user is a partner who brings their products into circulation and agrees what we call a trademark use agreement. This confirms that the empty packaging will be taken back and with the PICKUP-SYSTEM in particular, that we will collect it. In this way we retain control of the waste and we decide what happens to it, meaning whether the material is recycled into use or is thermally utilised. These options are available but RIGK has a clear focus on material recycling and always attempts to enhance this and increase the quantity of material recycling. For this reason, RIGK is also actively committed to helping to build up a market in Europe that can also deal with the quantities RIGK collects. This is decisive, and RIGK also sees this as its duty and contributes to completing this cycle. After all, political and public interest in this issue is increasingly growing, especially in the area of plastic and waste or marine pollution caused by plastics. Distributors or trademark users of RIGK services thus demonstrate that they take the issue of sustainability seriously, and that they also take care to ensure the material recycling of their packaging afterwards, after the product has been used. The RIGK sign on packaging is an additional “seal of quality” that helps them stand out from other manufacturers. This sign clearly indicates to RIGK that this packaging is licensed. It makes it clear that this packaging is disposed of legally. By carrying out checks during collections we ensure that only packaging that really is licensed, that bears our sign, is collected in order to shut out freeloaders.
What is the breakdown between material recycling and thermal utilisation?
About 2/3 of the quantities taken back are materially recycled, the other 1/3 is thermally utilised.
How does the delivery process work and how does thermal utilisation work?
Flexible packaging (e.g. plastic sheet bags and Big Bags) is usually shredded, washed and then regranulated. Work is currently being done on making Big Bags out of Big Bag regranulate again without having to use any new material. Other potential applications include construction or plastic pipes. Plenty of developments are happening in the market at the moment. RIGK is also actively working on new solutions here. For example, we’re working closely together with a large manufacturer of general garden parts, which can use the recyclate in its products. The future will show what percentage is possible here, but RIGK is attempting, as I mentioned before, to build up and support the European recycling market. Because it has be our target to keep quantities and waste flows within Europe. Just demanding this brings nothing. It must be possible to create products afterwards that find customers and are also affordable.
The canisters are washed, shredded and the ground material is processed again, recycled and used as HDPE granulate. In the recycling segment RIGK works individually with certified disposal businesses respectively recyclers on the market that best fit the product and best meet the strategy in question. In this way RIGK completes the material cycle, because plastics brought into circulation in the form of packaging are supplied for reuse. RIGK completes the cycle and offers distributors the possibility to meet their legal obligations resulting from the German Packaging Act.
How did the system come about?
It became clear in the past that customers did not just want the receipt possibility offered by the existing RIGK and RIGK-G-SYSTEMs. Against this background, RIGK decided to offer a collection service in addition. So it’s a full-service package. The motivation was simply established by the market, which demanded this service.
What are the greatest challenges involved in the PICKUP-SYSTEM?
The challenge is repeatedly guaranteeing a return from the most remote areas in Germany and working cost-effectively when doing so. With our service we permanently work on the interfaces between end customers on one side and distributors on the other.
One other target of course is that we come up with good and resilient services and also increasingly digitise our individual processes. It’s about retaining what exists and daring to take new paths. To achieve this RIGK is in a continuous dialogue with distributors, end customers, waste disposal organisations and recyclers. We see ourselves as a fair partner for the different market players and our claim is that we can always offer an optimum solution for returning packaging.
How did you come to RIGK yourself?
I’ve been at RIGK as RIGK-PICKUP Manager since 2016. Before that, I had been in the waste disposal sector for nearly 25 years as a sales and operations manager, so I also have experience of that side. I joined the sector after completing a course of studies in Ecotrophology in 1991.
Special side anecdote
In 1991, I met Markus Dambeck, one of the current Managing Directors of RIGK, when I was in a different role and he told me about the RIGK-SYSTEMS. Back then, I thought it would never work. Who sends back empty packaging voluntarily? Now, 30 years later, I have to say I was wrong - luckily! The RIGK systems and also the relatively young PICKUP-SYSTEM have established themselves on the market very well and are a success story, not least for the environment too.