Hey reader! It’s me, Fernando (ESR 5), and I’m here to give you a sneak preview of what I learned from the various SME sessions and company presentations from C-PlaNeT’s NTE2. Sit back, relax, and flashforward with me to the near-future!
Learning more about how various companies and organizations contribute to a more circular future for plastics is an important piece of knowledge for any Circular Plastics Professional. That’s why for NTE 2, we had a number of SMEs and C-PlaNeT partners introduce their work, circular practices, and sustainable innovations. Check them out below or jump directly to the content by clicking the links!
BlueCycle Lab – Suzanna Laskaridis (Founder)
Did you know that more than 640.000 tons of fishing gear is lost in the sea every year? Or that only 1.5% of fishing is gear is recycled? Or that 46% of the Great Garbage Patch is made up of fishing gear?
There is definitely a lot that must be done about the marine litter simply lying around and damaging our oceans. This is why BlueCycle was formed, an integrated circular economy company in Europe aiming to reuse marine plastic waste generated from shipping and fishing activities. BlueCycle has created an expansive network all over Greece to collect such waste. Then, the waste is sorted, shredded, and cleaned prior to processing at the BlueCycle Lab, where it is transformed into high-quality pellets that can be sold back to the plastics industry. Aside from that, it can also be used to create filament for 3D printers; in fact, the company is also able to create award-winning 100% recyclable 3D printed furniture from its recycled filament.
Outside the lab, BlueCycle has performed extensive work to engage its stakeholders, applying circular economy principles at every stage of the process. Ultimately, BlueCycle aims to promote a holistic approach to the sea waste problem. Visit their website (linked above) to know more!
Molecoola – Rodrigo Jobim Roessler (Founder)
Recycling is not perfect, but it works well enough. Company founder Rodrigo Roessler thought so too, until he found himself in an enlightening conversation about waste management in Brazil. There, informal waste pickers play an important role in waste management, but very few of them even make the minimum wage. Yet it is these same persons who are acutely aware of the residual value of waste. Clearly, something is wrong with the recycling system if certain sectors of society have to be subject to this misery.
Thus, Molecoola was built on the idea that waste management could be coupled with a positive impact based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recognizing the critical role that consumers have in the recycling supply chain, Molecoola brings together various stakeholders to create a sense of environmental loyalty among consumers and motivate them to bridge that gap in the supply chain.
So how does it work? Various Molecoola stores (drop-off points for recyclables) were set up as a network, operating as a micro-franchise run by people from vulnerable sectors of society (former waste pickers or those excluded from the normal job market). Consumers register on the app, bring their clean and sorted recyclables to Molecoola stores to get loyalty points, and exchange points for products and services from partners. Meanwhile, franchisees sell the collection to specialized recyclers. Visit their website (linked above) to know more!
ASASE Foundation – Dana Mosora (Founder)
Dana Mosora was 55 years old when she decided to leave her very successful career behind in order to pursue a long-delayed dream: the creation of a platform that would enable, inspire, and empower women. This dream manifested itself as the ASASE Foundation, founded in Accra, Ghana on March 24th, 2017.
The purpose of the ASASE Foundation is to enable Ghanaian women entrepreneurs to play a key role in cashing in on the plastic waste trash of Accra for the benefit of their communities. This involves closing the loop of plastic packaging there, maximizing the value created and retaining it in the community, and creating social impact: jobs, personal development, and investment in the community.
So how does it work? The first project of the ASASE Foundation is Project CASH IT!, a recycling plant launched in Katamanso in Accra. Here, HDPE and PP waste is re-processed using equipment produced by local artisans through the help of European experts. Operations are fully run by members of the community who were trained in technical and business management by the foundation. Once profitable, the plant will become a stand-alone social enterprise run by local women entrepreneurs who would give some of their profit to the community. Equally important, the plant will help divert hundreds of tons of plastic away from landfill, supporting the move to a more circular economy. Visit their website (linked above) to know more!
Cirplus GmbH – Christian Schiller (Founder)
Why is the plastics economy inefficient and wasteful? According to founder Christian Schiller, there are three reasons: (1) recycled material is not cheaper than virgin material; (2) not a lot of high quality material is available; and (3) companies lack digital readiness, treating digitization as a side story. However, new regulations and public pressure will force dramatic change: all brand owners will be required to use more recycled content in all of their products by 2030.
Cirplus believes that digitization has a huge potential for addressing this challenge and for improving circularity as a whole – particularly in terms of material tracing. Working on this premise, Cirplus provides a B2B marketplace connecting waste owners, recyclers, and plastic converters.
Now why would you choose a digital platform when you can just call someone to place an order? Efficiency – saving time and money in your procurement. Cirplus sets new standards for recyclates, making trade just like virgin material: it doesn’t matter where you buy recycled plastic; it becomes a commodity when there is standardization. You also get some level of quality assurance through testing and certification, as well as verified suppliers providing trusted service. Moreover, you benefit from a suite of other high-tech features such as AI-powered smart pricing and quantity prediction, logistics support, global track and trace, and others. Ultimately, Cirplus contributes to the circular economy by attempting to structure the chaotic recycling markets. Visit their website (linked above) to know more!
Sustainability at Adidas – Gudrun Messias (Senior Manager – Brand Sustainability)
Collaboration at Adidas & BIOTEXFUTURE – Timm Wagner (Senior Manager – Future)
Adidas is known globally for its excellent quality and cutting-edge innovation, but did you know how far it is ahead with sustainability?
Adidas believes that “through sport, we have the power to change lives.” However, as the problem of plastic waste grows, so does the threat against the spaces where the power of sport can change lives. In line with this, Adidas has come up with a three loop strategy: Recycled, Circular, and Regenerative loops. The first pertains to Adidas’ focus on using recycled material (such as Parley Ocean Plastic); the second refers to its initiatives to design products made to be remade (such as Futurecraft Loop); and whenever these are not possible, the third loops ensures such material can be returned to nature with minimal environmental harm (such as a protein-based tennis dress). At the same time, Adidas extends product lifetimes by helping athletes keep their gear in play for longer through circular services: repair services, takeback programs, and the like.
Another key enabler is open source strategies – partnering up to transform the industry. Closely involved with this is Adidas’ innovation group, Future Team. This group engages in long-term future thinking, bringing together a highly multi-disciplinary team of designers, engineers, sports scientists, makers, dreamers, and entrepreneurs to create the ‘new.’ A specific project presented in the NTE is BIOTEXFUTURE, a 5-year cross-industry R&D program aiming to transform the textile industry from petrol- to biobased. Here, instead of working with individual projects, a new funding model is used: innovation spaces. In this model, projects are cross-linked, creating a powerful culture of information exchange and collaboration in solving an overarching problem. Visit their website (linked above) to know more!
PlasticsEurope – Patricia Vangheluwe (Circularity Director)
And now on to our final guest – PlasticsEurope! PlasticsEurope is an association of plastics raw material producers in Europe, acting as a catalyst for the plastics industry in accelerating sustainable solutions valued by society. While it is not an SME or enterprise per se, it plays a substantial role in the circular plastics transition. For instance, it puts out position papers and thematic publications, the most notable of which is Plastic the Facts, an unrivalled, in-depth analysis of European plastics production, demand, and waste data. It also leads the debate, organizing forums, special shows, and conferences.
In Patricia’s talk, we revisit the circular plastics economy and get a better vision of how recycled plastics deeply permeate our lives: in (1) building and construction; (2) automotive, electrical, and electronics; (3) agriculture and gardening, and others. For this reason, PlasticsEurope understands the need to drive innovation and investment towards circular solutions. The goal is to speed up innovation and the industry transition towards a circular business models, and for this, collaboration is key.
Now, those were only six organizations out of surely many more who contribute in their own way towards the transition to more sustainable, more circular practices. We’ll keep you posted as we meet more inspirational companies in the future NTEs!