Again and again…
…sings the band Status Quo in their hit from 1978, but again and again is also the motto for the Tyrolean recycling company Höpperger.
The goal: to extract recyclable materials from waste and reuse them, to close the cycle and to do so as often as possible.
Nowhere else can you see, smell and hear sustainability as directly as at the renowned waste management company in the Tyrolean communities of Pfaffenhofen and Rietz, both about 25 minutes by car from Innsbruck. Yes – even the Nespresso capsules from all over Austria are disposed of here. This has made Höpperger popular. But recycling has completely different dimensions here – and they leave us more than amazed when we visit…
Harald Höpperger is a maker. What started in 1964 as a tank cleaning company is now a showcase company in terms of recycling and environmental protection. In more than 80 municipalities Höpperger disposes of waste and recyclables, cleans streets, cleans oil and grease separators and sewers.
But above all, the family business collects and recycles: 100,000 tonnes of waste per year – and an ever larger part of it is recycled. This, says Harald Höpperger, is environmental protection in action and sustainability in practice. Because what is recycled does not have to be produced again and saves resources. This is a huge issue, especially in Tirol with its valuable natural resources and intact nature. The waste management company is therefore an example for the whole of Tyrol of what is possible in terms of sustainability.
A second life for coffee pods
Coffee pods are trendy, convenient and taste delicious. If it weren’t for the aluminium capsule that is left behind as waste with every cup. But there is also a lot of usefulness in the used capsule, and Höpperger in Pfaffenhofen gets it out. In 2012, he secured Nespresso recycling for the whole of Austria with his recycling idea.
In a large drum, the capsules are broken into tiny pieces of aluminium and washed out. The cleaned aluminium can be perfectly reused. The washed coffee grounds are used to enrich a biosubstrate that is then used in the digestion towers of sewage treatment plants or to generate energy in biogas plants throughout Tirol. One used coffee capsule thus becomes two high-quality recycling products – that’s how recycling works!
10,000 tonnes of electronic aste
Harald Höpperger has to shout really loud to make himself understood in the hall for electronic waste processing. No wonder, the first thing that works here is a so-called cross-flow hogger. You have to imagine it like this: two short chains rotate in a drum. Old computers, household appliances or even monitors are thrown into this drum. The chains set the parts in rotation and they smash each other. The advantage: dangerous or valuable components are not destroyed as they would be by cutting them up.
After the smashing comes the sorting. With magnets, eddy current systems and vibrating sieves, the recyclable materials are extracted from the old equipment, and 98 % of it. In this way, copper becomes new cables, aluminium becomes car rims, raw iron becomes vehicle parts and the precious metal on the circuit boards might become a wedding ring or two.
Who wants to simply throw electrical appliances into the residual waste? Of course, behind this unbelievable recycling rate lies decades of tinkering and experience. Harald Höpperger and his team developed many things themselves, were often pioneers and still are today. They are proud to be a Tyrolean company. It may be that it is the special awareness and appreciation for nature in Tirol that has allowed a recycling master to grow here in particular.
‘For me, recycling is practised environmental protection and implemented sustainability‘, says Harald Höpperger, ‘everything that remains in the material cycle and can be reused conserves our livelihoods and preserves resources for later generations‘.
By the way, this also applies to plastic waste. The Tyroleans are praised throughout Austria as the world champions of collection when it comes to waste paper, glass and light packaging. And with good reason: because plastic waste in particular can be perfectly processed.
At Höpperger, a computer-controlled system cuts open the collection bags and sorts the waste – at least 95 % of the time. The cameras even recognise the colours of the PET bottles and can thus prepare them for recycling. Bottles become bottles. Or containers. Or caps, cans, trays. In Tirol alone, we save tens of thousands of tonnes of residual waste in this way.
Humus for organic farmers
Since the introduction of the green bin, we know: Food leftovers, spoiled food, potato peelings etc. are not residual waste, but valuable raw material. It already smells – well, let’s say stronger – when you enter the bio-waste disposal hall in Pfaffenhofen.
This is where the organic waste produced not only in private households but also in the restaurants is stored. And that’s quite a lot: around 12,000 tonnes per year. From the dumping area, however, it quickly goes into a closed cycle. With the help of intensive rotting modules, food scraps and eggshells are turned into high-quality compost in just a few weeks. ‘The ideal fertiliser for organic farmers,’ says Harald Höpperger.
A good conscience and cash
Höpperger has turned recycling into a flourishing business. The fact that he combines environmental awareness and economic success in this way could also be interesting for other entrepreneurs. In many production and trading companies, the conscious use of resources and waste could not only make business more sustainable, but also save money and even earn money. There is more in waste than we think.
Höpperger is a member of the Green Filming Tirol database Marketplace Tirol. There you will find products and services from regional and sustainable Tyrolean companies that can be useful for your film production.
Moreover, Höpperger is a Tyrolean success story. Lebensraum Tirol Holding, in cooperation with its subsidiaries (Tirol Tourist Board, Standortagentur Tirol and Agrarmarketing Tirol), brings special companies, projects, initiatives and people before the curtain. What they all have in common is that they play a pioneering role and act as role models for sustainability and responsible business. They contribute to the sustainability of the Tyrolean economy, society and environment and encourage the dissemination of sustainable change concepts. You can find more success stories here (in German only).