Today the fire belongs to the past and the business is booming. In front of the large factory hall, tippers painted in Korn’s brand colours red and orange are put on scales in order to weigh their loads – woodchips, Christmas trees or substitute fuels – and afterwards give way to excavators that handle tires or iron scrap.
The origins of the medium-sized company date back to 1978. Back then, the company was a one-person operation, Alexander Korn recalls. “In the morning my father was a blue-collar worker operating his three-way tipper, in the afternoon he visited customers wearing a business suit. An earth quake that occurred on September 3rd 1978 resulted in the first full employment.” On that day, thousands of buildings in Albstadt and the surrounding areas were damaged. Some buildings were severely damaged and had to be demolished. “My father operated his MEILLER skip handler day and night, removing debris.” Since that time, Korn has solely relied on tipper bodies manufactured by MEILLER. “We are very satisfied with the quality and the price performance ratio is fair”, says Alexander Korn. “And whenever there is a problem, MEILLER is there to help.” At the moment, 16 skip handlers and hooklifts are in operation. In total, Korn has ordered more than 30 MEILLER tippers so far.
Korn started its recycling business in 1987 when recycling was still at the very beginning. Back then, industrial waste was spread on the floor and scrap, metal, wood, paper or foils were sorted by hand. Afterwards, the different resources were processed to recyclable materials. “I remember that very well since I was also engaged with that process”, says the managing director. Paper, the most common waste besides scrap, was pressed and delivered to paper mills. According to Alexander Korn the company has been a certified waste management enterprise since 1996. Six years later, the production of substitute fuels started. “Today, substitute fuels have become our main product”, explains Alexander Korn. “We sort and automatically break up industrial waste, bulky waste, as well as building and demolition waste using one of the most modern waste sorting plants. As a result we receive scrap, metal, wood, plastics, minerals, and the highly sought after energy carrier, the so-called fluff.” Depending on its original material the fluff is somewhat lighter or darker. Alexander Korn raves about its high efficiency. “The fluff substitutes fossil fuels and burns completely. Therefore, it is the perfect fuel for rotary furnaces in cement plants.”
Korn Recycling produces around 65.000 tons of fluff per year, resulting from around 100.000 tons of waste. Responsible for transportation is Markus Korn with Korn Rekotrans, the second division at Korn Recycling. Rekotrans is a transportation service provider offering broad services ranging from heavy load to communal services like snow-clearing. Considering the long winter at the Swabian Alb, this is a profitable business.
Markus Korn talks about the values that made the one-person operation become a business of around 70 employees and a turnover of €14 million. “When we were children, our father taught us diligence, motivation, and reliability. This is how we grew up, we already had to take responsibility when we were young. For us a lot of days start between 4.00 or 5.00 a.m.” Alexander and Markus Korn maintain close relations to their employees. They know a lot about their personal lives and sometimes break new ground. “An Italian employee told me that one of his relatives in Italy was a remarkable electrician”, tells Alexander Korn. “Unfortunately, he didn’t speak any German. I invited him and we agreed upon a two week probation time. After that time, I would have paid for his trip home. He showed an excellent work and is now learning our language with the help from his Italian colleagues and a weekly German class.”
This open mindedness is also practiced outside the company. Groups of school children or university students are welcome to visit the company and students are given the opportunity to write their thesis on the recycling industry. Even well-known personalities from around the world come to visit Korn. “It impresses me when the mayor of a Chinese megacity wants to learn about our recycling system”, says Wolfgang Kowalczyk. Korn also engages in interesting events. In July, there will be a “Recycling Art & Fashion Show“. Inside the factory hall - between stairs, conveyor belts, and sensors - models will be showing new creations designed by the Albstadt Fashion School – made of recyclable material by Korn Recycling. This might be a new business idea?