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NKT is giving cable production scrap a second life

Nov 12, 2021

NKT has managed to reuse the last remaining mixed material fraction and thereby completing the loop on our production scrap. Open & closed loop recycling is the process by which waste is collected, recycled and produced to make something new. Effectively, the waste does a full circle without having a negative impact on the environment.

Recycling plant
By Christian Andersson, Senior Material Specialist in NKT and Natalia Lykova, Head of Group Sustainability in NKT.
In NKT, we can now generate material streams which can be recycled and transformed into high quality secondary raw materials for the production of new products and we are now enabling manufacturing of various products from the recycled material.
Full recyclability as a result of an impressive waste management process
NKT is committed to eliminating waste, and progress is based on a long-term focus on the reuse and recycling of cable scrap and other materials. In 2020, several local initiatives supporting the zero-waste objective were launched. Teams at all factories are reducing the use of the landfill and current state is that use of landfill constitutes only 4% of the total waste treatment processes of NKT. When it comes to waste reduction, production processes play an important role and efficient material utilization has been a long-term focus area.
Recycling of mixed fractions
We have continuously optimized a sorting system for production scrap. Today we separate the production scrap, at the production sites for building wire, 1 kV and medium voltage cables, in 30 separate material fractions. These fractions consist of different combinations of metal, plastic and other materials. The last few years NKT has been struggling with recycling of the last of the 30 material fractions, so called “mixed fraction”, consisting of a mix of PE, XLPE, HFFR, foils and yarns.
NKT has finally succeeded in recycling this last mixed material fraction which is today used to manufacture products like flowerpots, square flower planters and traffic barrier pole feet.
Recycling plant
recycling plant
Recycling cable scrap
Image of recycling cable drum
Image of recycled flowerpot
Image of recycled traffic sign
Image of recycled flowerbox
NKT was in recycling before most others was even thinking about recycling. Recycling takes a little effort on our part but makes a big difference to the world! Regardless of what materials you have to recycle, sorting is important for a superior end result and we have over the years developed best practice recycling processes by closely cooperating with our recycling center to ensure minimal waste during the processing stage. The steps of our processes allowed different fractions of the cable components to be separated and sorted, optimizing the quality of the finished products so they for sure can be reused as raw materials. 
Game changer in connecting a greener world
The value of recycling and circularity to sustainability and world’s economy cannot be argued. Dependency on raw materials has been growing over the past and green transition will not slow it down. Materials used in cable production are needed in wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. While metals and minerals help in reducing climate emissions the extraction and processing takes its toll on environment and people therefore ensuring that metals and plastics are being used circularly is critical to run sustainable green transformation.
In NKT we have savored low hanging fruits in the recycling process where, metals are being extracted with a high efficiency rate and relatively low contamination. Here, there has been a small fraction left which is sometimes called the “impossible” leftover and therefore not being material recycled but being thermally treated and simply incinerated to energy. Finding a solution to use those leftovers with mixed materials is a true game changer for NKT. This takes us to a next level towards zero waste, as the final mile in this marathon is the toughest one. By solving the problem with the mixed waste fraction our cable scrap reaches 100% recyclability as we have successfully proven that not only metals but also XLPE and other cable plastics can be successfully reused in other industrial applications finding solutions to those difficult problems and challenging the industry to strive towards environmentally sound processes is part of the company purpose to connect a greener world.
NKT processes the circularity journey to zero waste and is striving to keep all the products and materials we sell in use for as long as possible and we aim to reuse, resell or recycle all our production materials. Part of the ambition is to become free of single-use plastics, and in years to come efforts to realize the ambition will continue across the organization.

Recycling takes a little effort on our part but makes a big difference to the world.

— Christian Andersson, Senior Material Specialist

David Lundquist
US Telecom Sales Manager
Christian Andersson
Senior Material Specialist
Image of Christian Andersson