In the beginning of March 2016, Tom Kuppens and I, who are involved in a research project called Innomat, were invited to take a closer look at the manufacturing plant of Royal Auping and the recycling plant of RetourMatras. These two firms have been working together through the Auping Take Back System (ATBS), which offers Royal Auping customers the possibility to hand in their old mattresses when the new mattres(se)s is (are) being delivered. These used mattresses are then recycled at RetourMatras.
Our journey started when we arrived at the picturesque hotel Huis Vermeer, where Willem Stox (Country Director Belux – Royal Auping) welcomed us. He enlightened us on the history of Royal Auping and the history that Royal Auping and Huis Vermeer share. It became apparent that Royal Auping is very keen on sustainability, transparency and corporate social responsibility.
The next day, Geert Doorlag (Product Developer) informed us on Royal Auping’s vision and accomplishments regarding sustainability and corporate social responsibility within the company. As a result, he therefore touched upon the following items: cradle-to-cradle, checking and categorizing the sustainability of the incoming intermediate goods, closed loop cycling, upcycling, recycling, enhancing the lifespan of their products, reuse of functional parts, the inclusion of recycled goods in the production process and the fact that they avoid creating waste as they only produce fully customized goods on demand.
Afterwards, Hans van Schaik (Technical Manager) gave us a tour around the manufacturing plant (which consists out of four sections: tickings, bed basis, wood and textiles). Royal Auping also strives to be completely climate neutral by 2020 and thus to be 100% self-supporting on renewable energy.
A major step has been the decision to centralize their three plants into a new and transformed site. This decision had an enormous impact on emissions through transport. Obviously, this plant was designed to be energy saving. Even during the (re)construction of this plant, materials were recuperated as much as possible from the demolition. Other sustainable enhancements during the (re)construction were recuperation of hot and cold air and water, installation of a heat pump, inclusion of LightCatchers and the use of LED lights (with motion detectors).
Furthermore, several measures were taken to generate greater comfort for the employees. For example, employees do not need to wear masks as they work with an odorless glue. On top of that, woodchips and dust are extracted around the working stations in the wood section. Moreover, the working stations are designed to be ergonomic (automatically adjustable height, no manual tilting, etc. ). Finally, the workers are invited to have their say in the production process on a daily basis.
After lunch, we drove to Lelystad to visit the fully automated and patented recycling plant of RetourMatras. Nanne Fioole (General Manager RetourMatras) and Chico van Hemert (Account Manager RTM Recycling Systems) gave us a clear understanding of how their recycling process works, what the challenges are/were and how they envision the future.
The recycling process starts with a metal detection scan to see whether the mattress contains springs. This scan allows a separation of mattresses with and mattresses without metal parts. Both types will nevertheless follow a parallel trajectory. In case the mattresses contained metal fragments, they will be passed through a magnet that extracts all metal parts. Afterwards, the metal parts are shredded.
Next step in the process, is the removal of the tickings. A machine cuts the mattresses in half and peals off the tickings and places the mattresses on the conveyor belt. Air and dust are extracted within this machine to avoid pollution on the site. The tickings are then put into a baler. Finally, the remaining latex or PU is reduced in size and also pressed into bales.
One of the biggest challenges they have faced in the past, was the enormous decline in prices and the quite saturated markets for the recycled materials.
Nevertheless, they have come up with a smart solution. RetourMatras is currently developing a plan to produce bonded foam from their extracted materials and foresee an opening of 4 new plants in the Netherlands and perhaps even two in Belgium.
Needless to say, that RetourMatras faces a worldwide demand for its patented machinery, general concept and consultancy.
For more details we would like to refer interested readers to the full report (only in Dutch).
Tom Kuppens and Marieke Franck.