Interview with the head of Bärlocher AG from Switzerland
In our Peter’s Corner with the title “The stone industry urgently needs to deal with its residual materials in its public relations work“ we discussed the waste that is generated during the extraction and processing of natural stone. We asked Hans-Jakob Bärlocher, who runs Bärlocher AG, based not far from Lake Constance, about the topic:
Stone-Ideas.com: On your webpage you write ‘In quarrying, we strive to recycle as much of the material as possible’. How do you manage to do that?
Hans-Jakob Bärlocher: In a quarry, you can’t use all the material you get from the rock. This is due to the geology, in the case of our Rohrschach sandstone to the deposition many millions of years ago and the influences of nature since then. Material is produced that is not suitable for application. We handle this in an environmentally conscious manner: We use some of the non-recyclable material to restore the quarry site. Among other things, piles of stones, so-called small structures, are filled in. These are important habitats for rare animal and plant species. We follow the example of nature: there is no waste, everything is somehow used for something.
Stone-Ideas.com: But what about the ‘stone powder’ that results when you cut up the large blocks and make slabs a few centimeters thick out of them?
Hans-Jakob Bärlocher: This stone powder is produced as sludge when cutting natural stones. In our company, the sludge is separated into water and sand in a chamber filter press plant. The water is returned to the processing cycle. The sandy material is also used for backfilling in the quarrying area.
Stone-Ideas.com: And when they finally cut up the slabs and use them to make windowsills, kitchen countertops or tiles for a floor, for example – what happens to the offcuts?
Hans-Jakob Bärlocher: There are many possibilities. For the production of our gabions, we need crushed stone. This can be produced very well from the saw cuttings. We have been making our wine bottle coolers from somewhat larger cuttings for more than 25 years. This is a product that makes the Rorschach sandstone famous in a special way. We have made several thousand pieces over the years. Even for the smallest stones there are uses. Stone is a product of nature, and we have to deal with it the way nature does – one cycle of use is followed by the next.
Stone-Ideas.com: Environmental concerns and climate goals are becoming increasingly important issues in the public eye. What is your position on this as an entrepreneur?
Hans-Jakob Bärlocher: We have had the topic as a characteristic of our company concept for a long time. We were one of the first natural stone companies in Switzerland to be certified in environmental matters. In the meantime, we have had many details about our materials examined in various studies. You can find the data on our webpage. In general we think: the whole society has to be environmentally friendly and climate conscious – with our stones, which are 100% natural and which you can rededicate and reuse practically for ever, we are at the forefront.
Bärlocher AG (German)
(27.08.2021, USA: 08.27.2021)