ALPLA helps drive circularity and sustainability with new facility in East Netherlands

Efficient recycling is crucial in the drive towards a circular economy. ALPLA is one of the world’s largest producers of plastic packaging. The company has 20,900 employees spread across 181 locations in 48 countries on four continents. With the opening of its fourth production facility in the Netherlands, ALPLA Zwolle fits perfectly with the regional and national ambition to stimulate circular entrepreneurship in the east of the Netherlands.

Smaller footprint

The rationale behind the location in Zwolle is a strategic move in order to establish production closer to one of ALPLA’s key customers and to improve the company’s CO2-footprint. Roeland Marijnissen, Country Manager ALPLA Nederland explains: ‘We have been producing for this particular customer for around twenty years. Previously, production took place in Germany. However, that involved a 400km journey with ten freight trucks daily. That costs travel time and generates CO2 emissions. Furthermore, in Germany, heavy trucks are forbidden to use the motorways on Sundays, and in busy periods there is occasionally a shortage of vehicles. So, we hit on the idea of opening a facility in Zwolle. ‘Closer to the customer’ is very much the ALPLA philosophy.’

100% recycling

ALPLA has been in the recycling business for more than twenty years and opened its first recycling facilities in Austria and Poland. It purchases used plastic bottles and recycles them into new material for the production of a wide range of products, including plastic bottles and bottle-tops, re-using fully 100 percent of its production waste. ‘The bottles we produce here have a six-layer wall, which is a pretty specialized process. We developed our own machines for this, and we have automated a large part of our production processes, including driverless fork-lift trucks and packaging robots,’ explains Marijnissen.

Linking & connecting

Once fully settled in Zwolle, ALPLA intends to connect with other parties in the region that deal with plastics, such as the nearby Polymer Science Park, a knowledge center for applied plastics technology, and plastics recycling firm PreZero. In addition to serving its key customer from the  Zwolle facility,  ALPLA Netherlands has the capacity to serve other existing clients such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble. ‘We are perceived as only serving major clients; however, because we manufacture our own matrices, we are flexible, able, and keen to help smaller companies with their packaging challenges,’ states Marijnissen.

Helping hands

‘We were helped enormously in setting up the new facility by a number of organizations including the Zwolle City Council and Regional Development Agency Oost NL (Oost NL),’ acknowledges Marijnissen. ‘They helped to connect us with specialist employment agencies and with logistics firms that could help us with transportation.’ As with all production facilities, permitting is a crucial aspect and one in which Oost NL, member of Invest in Holland Network, was keen to facilitate. ‘Together with the Province and the local Council, we investigated what was needed to obtain permit approval,’ states Oost NL project manager Peter van Houten.

Future plans

Another challenge in the near future, for both ALPLA and Oost NL, is the transition to emission-free transportation. ALPLA is looking to employ electric vehicles or diesel-variants that produce 90 percent fewer emissions. ‘We will evaluate how ALPLA’s activities can conform to Nitrogen emission norms and identify where emissions can be reduced,’ confirms van Houten. ALPLA’s Marijnissen is enthusiastic about the ongoing support the company has received in their new venture: ‘We have certainly received a warm welcome here, and I can tell you that that’s a very good feeling!’ Attracting such companies to the region strengthens the focus on achieving milestones on the path to a more circular economy.