This is big news: The large plastics and rubber distributor Erteco will start offering Trifilon's BioLite as a sustainable-choice plastic intended for injection molding. Erteco says more and more of its customers are requesting green alternatives. In fact, they got in touch with us after one of their customers requested a green-choice polyolefin, the class of plastics most commonly used in injection molding. We at Trifilon see this collaboration – a major materials supplier sticking a Nordic biocomposite in their catalogue – as an important step in the long journey to making the production of consumer goods more sustainable. And Erteco can put Trifilon’s eco-minded materials alongside conventional polymers because it performs without the problems associated with other biocomposites. It’s the easiest first step.
Last week, Trifilon's Jeremiah Dutton visited one of Sweden’s largest penitentiaries in Kumla (which has a supermax) to speak with Tobias Hindorf, the production coordinator there who manages an injection molding operation where inmates work. Not many people know that inmates at Kumla produce a lot of their everyday items, from beds to spatulas, right inside the prison. They also make a few items for dogs including toys that they produce for a local brand. Tobias told us they currently use a biocomposite material made from wood chips, but that it didn’t perform so well in certain products he wants to branch into, like clothes hangers. Trifilon to the rescue. “We were very happy about the results. It’s got a nice soft touch,” said Tobias.
We can proudly report that we have been nominated for this year's World Wildlife Fund (WWF) award called "Climate Solver." We're in the running with 11 other Nordic companies with eco innovations. WWF will give the prize to the companies it deems demonstrate the greatest potential for environmental benefit and for establishing itself internationally. You can read more about the award requisites on the WWF website, but one fits hemp fibers well: "The solution is not based on fossil fuels or nuclear power but aligns with a resources and energy efficient transition towards a circular economy fueled by 100% renewable energy." WWF's press release outlines the other prong, saying the solution "must also be in an early commercial phase and its potential climate benefit must be considered by WWF to be the largest among current Nordic startups." To receive such a confirmation, from no less a prestigious organization than WWF, is enormous. The winner will be announced on Cleantech Capital Day on May 22 in Malmo.
Ignore for a moment that ubiquitous plastic plays a role in global environmental crises, littering oceans and leaching chemicals into the ground. An uncomfortable bottom line is that there are no alternatives to plastic if our Western economies want to grow and develop at the rate and in the manner they have for decades. And that’s not to mention the fact that the mechanical qualities of plastic can be argued to drastically reduce the environmental impact of our consumer society. Plastic makes products lighter for transportation. Its cheap production results in energy savings compared with other materials. In the high volume food industries it helps keep veggies and meat fresh longer. And many plastics are able to be recycled over and over again where other materials quickly degrade. The chair of the Swedish Plastic Industry Association (Svensk Plastindustriförening), Leif Nilsson makes sales points that are difficult to argue with: “The rule of thumb is that plastic uses only about 30 percent as much material as you’d need with other materials. With glass or metal, the weight of products shoots up and so do transportation emissions and costs. Cars and airplanes suffer more wear and tear and use more fuel. Then, of course, there are areas where plastic is more or less irreplaceable because of its mechanical qualities and moldability.” Hmm… electronics, computers, mobile phones? And those gadgets might be argued to afford us a long list of “soft” environmental benefits through increased knowledge sharing and connectivity. Just all to say that a greener plastic like Trifilon BioLite™ is an even better idea than you thought!
While a few years old, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation's (Naturskyddsföreningen) Plastic Report (Plastrapport) was spot on when defining the three overall challenges facing plastics today: exposure to chemicals used in manufacturing, a global nature conservation problem, and the fact that the main ingredient is crude oil. Using greener plastics, and biocomposites in particular, can reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels drastically. A market analysis from the EU, which Trifilon participated in, estimates that a transition to biological raw materials and processing methods can save 2.5 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2030. That same analysis predicts that the European market for bio-based raw materials and new consumer products will explode. Even the global market is expected to increase, at an average of 11 percent per year, according to Businesswire. Obviously, the destination is greener goods for all - so give us a call if you want to be part of the solution.
Electric car producer Uniti also shares our view that manufacturers can and should lead the way in developing greener consumer cultures. Despite the fact that the car industry accounts for nearly 9 percent of plastic consumption in Europe, recycling rules and practice are lacking to say the least. But Uniti has shown interest in using Trifilon’s BioLite and BioForm for components in their cars. We’ve floated the idea of “leasing” plastic materials to the car manufacturer. That’s not a profit scheme. Rather it would mean we would be responsible for repurposing the material after it is used. “We could definitely take back BioLite and BioForm panels and, for example, up-cycle them into new grades of our injecting molding material,” said Trifilon’s Jermiah Dutton. “If this partnership is finalized, we would have a sustainable, circular stream of plastic materials in our cars. It would reduce waste, for one. And with increasing depreciation costs, this gives us major economic benefits,” said Tim Unerman, Head of Composites at Uniti.
The UK's 2019 departure from the EU is estimated to leave a gaping 13-billion Euro hole in the EU budget. What to do? The BBC reported that the EU is seriously considering a tax on plastic packaging to make up some of the shortfall. The European Commission will deliberate whether that tax is incurred at production, use, or disposal. While the massive revenue stream is the impetus for such a move, the enormous environmental merits are also key to the tax's proponents. Such a tax would incentivize companies to rethink packaging and consumers to reduce waste. It's a step towards the goals laid out in this draft manifesto from the EU about plastics in the circular economy (or similarly the Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative the New Plastics Economy). One possible future we're contemplating -Trifilon only "rents" plastic out to manufacturers. More on that in the coming months.