We regularly introduce an employee of the group to talk about his or her activities for the Müller-Guttenbrunn Group. This time we visited Kristof van Mieghem at his workplace in the MBA Polymers plant in Kematen/Ybbs and talked to the 28-year-old Belgian.
You are from Belgium. How did you end up here in Lower Austria?
Kristof van Mieghem: After studying religion and history in Belgium, I initially worked as a development-aid worker in Sudan. When I came back to Belgium, a former school friend of mine asked me if I would like to accompany him on a trip through Europe. Spontaneously I decided to come along with him and at the last station – here in Austria – I decided to stay. Eventually it was love that attracted me to Oed, where I now live with my girlfriend and two stepdaughters.
What did you like so much here in Austria?
Kristof van Mieghem: I look at Belgium as one big city: it is all densely populated with an enormous amount of traffic and the people are very concerned about their privacy. In Austria, everything is so beautifully green, the scenery is varied and the people are much more open and friendly.
What has been the spark leading to your decision to stay in Austria?
Kristof van Mieghem: An important experience for me was a meal with acquaintances in Steyr. We came into the restaurant and the acquaintances said „Grüß Gott”, “Mahlzeit” and „Hello“ to everyone. That’s where I thought; wow, they know a lot of people! But my friend explained, that this is the usual way of greeting and it impressed me and I really liked that. Furthermore folks where we simply passed by, invited us spontaneously for a barbecue with beer and schnapps. From then on I knew exactly where I wanted to live.
How have you settled in Mostviertel?
Kristof van Mieghem: That was quite easy – as an EU citizen, I was immediately accepted by everyone and it turned out that the formalities with the authorities worked out fine immediately. Of course, from time to time you have to withstand a joke about the Belgians, but I can take that.
The German language was not an obstacle for you?
Kristof van Mieghem: At school in Belgium Dutch, French, English and even German are taught. Therefore, on the whole I had no serious problem – I just did not get along with the Mostviertler dialect in the beginning. This dialect did cause some misunderstandings and even funny experiences. With regards to the dialect expressions, I am still learning something new every day and that is fine.
And you have found an interesting job at MBA Polymers
Kristof van Mieghem: Yes, it all started about three years ago, when a leasing company sent me to MBA Polymers. And now I am working as a production staffmember and deputy shift supervisor at MBA Polymers in Kematen/Ybbs.
That means you work in shifts. How is that?
Kristof van Mieghem: I work four days and then have another four days off. In our factory we work 24 hours during 7 days a week and we produce throughout the year. Only in the Christmas Season the machines will shut down briefly. The shift work as with anything else has pros and cons. But I’m happy, because I always have four days for my family, our two dogs or my work as a paramedic with the Red Cross.
Could you describe your work in some more detail?
Kristof van Mieghem: I’m working on two major installations – in the separation system and with the extrusion of the recycled plastics. Mostly I work in the separation process. Specifically, this means that the shredded and cleaned plastic flakes from E-Waste are sorted in a high-tech system in which these flakes are sorted in pure polymer flakes. I started however working in the extrusion lines, where separated plastic flakes are re melted into thin strands and cut into 3mm small pellets. Our customers use these purified and extruded plastic pellets for example for the production of environmentally friendly vacuum cleaners or coffee machines and that makes me a little proud.
Your work sounds technically very exciting …
Kristof van Mieghem: Absolutely. It is often difficult for outsiders to comprehend how everything works exactly. Undoubtedly it is a great technological effort to be able to make a re-usable product out of a complex waste. Some of the recycled material goes through five different installations, some of which are three floors high, in order to achieve the desired result. It is always fascinating to watch how the recycling chain works in the Müller-Guttenbrunn Group. Thus, for example, an old electrical appliance can be recycled almost completely to new materials, which can be used to manufacture a new device again.
What’s so exciting about your job for you?
Kristof van Mieghem: Since the recyclable scrap mix is never the same, you always have to think it through to find new and creative solutions. Much has to do with soft skills in order to adjust the machine during the operation to an optimum performance. This ensures constant variety in the work. And so I am learning – as is the case with the Mostviertler dialect – something new every day.
Your work sounds extremely positive; after all, new raw materials are recovered from waste …
Kristof van Mieghem: Yes, indeed. Especially when you see that the recycled material is re-used as new material to produce for example a new coffee machine. That always gives me a very positive feeling. In addition, we know that this material is not buried somewhere, burned or flushed into the sea or the ocean. Just imagine; at MBA Polymers, we process more than 100 Metric Tons of incoming material in one single day and that indeed represents a serious contribution to make the world better. Per ton produced of produced plastics, we save 4.5 Metric Tons of CO2, and that’s huge, especially if you realize that we only need to produce 2 Metric Tons of plastics to save the amount of CO2 emitted by one Austrian citizen in one full year. In addition, compared to the production of new plastics, we consume less than 10% of the amount of energy – an energy saving of over 90%.
The local TV station P3TV has transmitted an item on Kristof van Mieghem in the TV program “Zweite Heimat” (second Homeland): Click here