«Watching closely has always been KFN’s trademark»

Heinz Marti, CEO of KFN, explains the company’s efforts in protecting resources and the many benefits this brings with it.

KFN processes tons of lime every year, turning it into a range of products. How the resources are protected in the best possible way, when this focus started and how both the environment and the company benefit – Heinz Marti explains it all. Being the CEO of a family-owned business, he has known the company for 37 years.

Protecting resources is considered an issue for generations at KFN. How long has this been on the table at KFN?

Protecting resources was of importance for us already in the middle of the 20th century. At the time, KFN occupied itself with the question how by-products of lime production that were of no use at the time could be put to such a meaningful use.

And what was the solution?

Through the creation of our own gravel plant, we were able to turn limestone that could not be used for the production of white lime into high-quality gravel. Our two sewage treatment plants also contribute hugely to resource protection. One was put into operation in the beginning of the 1960s, the other at the start of the 2000s. They process the washing water in such a way that it is collected, cleaned and recycled, so that no actual sewage has to be dealt with. What is more, the ensuing lime sludge is also worked into our products. Its positive features make KFN Netstaler an attractive product, offering a natural coating in the construction of paths and streets. Similarly, we re-use the filter dust that is a by-product of the lime burning process. This harmless lime dust is also an additive to one of our products and serves, for example, as a soil enhancer.

Why do you think protecting resources is an important issue for KFN?

We have been trying to have as little waste as possible for a long time. This is not the least due to the huge amount of material that we are moving around. If we do not treat it properly and sensibly, huge amounts of waste are created. Creating products with an ecological and economical use instead of waste serves both nature and us. What is more, some of the uses that our products are put to significantly protect resources. Using lime to stabilize soils increases the load capacity of the natural ground, rendering a soil exchange unnecessary. Hydrated lime slows down the ageing process of asphalt pavements, prolonging their useful life for years.

What are your focal points for saving resources?

We put the spotlight on continuously improving our processes. One example is our new furnace, that has been put to use in 2020, one of the most efficient of its kind. It needs a lot less electricity and fossil fuel, and the emissions caused by the burning process are on a very low level. As opposed to earlier furnace systems, our present one can burn all stone grain sizes coming out of the quarry without cumbersome interim storage. Better technologies, automation and modern facilities help us in our focus on the most considerate use of resources.

How has the protection of resources changed since the beginnings of KFN?

Honestly, I do not know to what extent sustainability played a role in the work of my predecessors. But since at KFN we operate on a rather small piece of land, we put the sewage water treatment plant into operation quite early. Other companies use so-called sludge settling tanks that consume vast areas – impossible for us. Watching closely, finding potential for optimization and putting it into reality has always been the trademark of KFN.

What were KFN’s milestones in the area of resource protection?

As we just discussed, there were several. As a milestone of the more recent past, I would consider the inauguration of our new furnace in 2020. This brought us to a new level in the field of resource protection.

Where do you see further potentials for optimization that could be made operational in the near future?

While we could optimize the material flows in the course of the past decades, we have not yet reached 100 per cent. We still have a surplus of lime sludge. Our aim is to further reduce the surplus byproducts in order to possibly put all the material that we mine to a sensible use.