Interview with Willi Stadler, CEO of Stadler Group. Easy Engineering: How was 2021 for your business, a short summary? Willi Stadler: 2021 was, under the circumstances, a good year. We had a large order intake and production was busy throughout the year. Our products and plants are not only in demand in Germany or Europe, but worldwide. Recycling or circular economy and the associated environmental benefits (CO2 reduction, less greenhouse gases, less primary raw materials) give us a real boost. The mentioned difficult circumstances in 2021 were foremost these: In addition to the Covid 19 pandemic, there were a number of additional challenges: the prices for certain materials or services really exploded. Especially in the area of “steel”, purchase prices doubled and tripled within a short period of time. But not only for steel, also for other materials such as wood, copper or plastics the purchase prices went up rapidly. In addition, some of the materials were no longer available or had delivery times of several months. Transport also became more expensive to an unprecedented extent. For example, the transport of a standard 40” sea container from Germany to the USA rose from about $3,500 to no less than $18,000! Finally, the shortage of skilled workers is also causing us problems. E.E: What new products/services will be launched this year? W.S: In 2022 really interesting sorting plants will be put into operation: In Brazil, near Recife, a household waste sorting plant will be installed in 2022. This is a new milestone for South America and will give a boost to the country and the circular economy. A modern household waste sorting plant like this one with high output and purity rates of the sorted recyclables as well as a modern, subsequent treatment of the organics saves huge amounts of CO2. A guideline for this: A household waste sorting plant that treats 100,000 tonnes of input material per year saves about 100,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. In Turin, Italy, a large lightweight plastic packaging plant will be built in the coming months. It will process a large part of the plastic packaging produced in Piedmont. Together with our partner, the Krones company, we are currently installing a plastic recycling plant in Indonesia. New plastics are produced from old, collected plastic. In Finland, we built one plant with two independent lines for commercial waste and heavy mixed construction waste. Plants where, in addition to our conventional sorting technology, robots are increasingly used for sorting. And in Eitting, very close to Munich’s “Franz-Josef-Strauß” airport, the most advanced light packaging sorting plant in Germany, if not the world, was built! More than 1,000 tonnes of steel are used here for the steel structures alone, and 38 near-infrared detection systems separate the stream of recyclable materials into the individual fractions with high qualities and yields. At the moment we are in the commissioning phase. Another highlight in plant technology is being built in Zurich, Switzerland: Together with our subsidiary weeeSwiss, we are building our first turnkey e-waste recycling plant for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and we are making another major contribution to the circular economy. We were also very pleased about the sale of our second plant in Japan. E.E: How did the market change in the last year? W.S: Due to EU regulations and the China ban on polluted plastic imports, the demand for sorting and recycling plants in Europe has exploded. Many projects are being planned, especially in the plastics sector. Automation and digitalization are also becoming increasingly important for our plants. E.E: What were the best-selling products of 2021? W.S: Two products stand out at the moment: One is the ballistic separator. Here we are the worldwide market and technology leader and the machine is the heart of almost all sorting plants. For example, it separates the flat materials (film, paper, textiles) from the plastic bottles and metals in light packaging sorting systems in such a way that the subsequent sorting can be perfected using NIR devices with regard to output and purity. The second machine that we were able to sell really well in 2021 was the Label Remover. Here, the labels of the plastic bottles are removed automatically. Willi Stadler, CEO of Stadler Group The advantages are then obvious: Better detection Less contamination in the washing process Savings compared to washing systems for label removalInvestment payback in 2 yearsHigh quality standard of around 80 percent of labels removedNo losses of bottlenecks Better subsequent NIR detection, due to rougher surfaces of the bottles after leaving our Label RemoverHigh resistance to impurities: stones in the material stream are no longer a problemExcellent durabilityOutstanding results with PET, PE and PP E.E: What sector of business do you think is expected to grow this year? W.S: In the field of plastics recycling, the high demand continues unabated. After plastic bottles, however, there is now an increasing demand for film sorting or film recycling plants. Otherwise, the ambitious goals of the EU cannot be achieved. In countries where there is no or hardly any separate collection of recyclables, the demand for general MSW sorting plants will increase. E.E: What estimations do you have for 2022? W.S: We are already at full production capacity for 2022. That is both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that production will be busy for many months. On the other hand, unfortunately, we can’t then serve regular customers who still want to build or rebuild something in 2022. In order to react to this situation, we are expanding our production facility, in order to increase our production capacity. The first phase of the expansion will be finished by the end of this year. We are also optimistic that the difficulties that the Corona pandemic caused us will lessen and hopefully disappear in the course of the year. Furthermore, we hope that there will be no more problems with the availability of the materials we need for production and that prices will tend to drop again somewhat. All in all, it should be a good year. E.E: A short message for collaborators for the beginning of the year. W.S: I would like to express my sincere thanks to our staff for their outstanding work and exceptional commitment. We have excellent and highly motivated employees. Together and as a team, we will continue to be successful!