We talked to one of the two directors of Plastika Skaza, dr. Robert Agnič, about why we have decided that our main focus will be on the circular economy in the coming years, and how this transformation is going.
When did the sustainable transformation of the company begin and why did it occur?
About two and a half years ago, we began to wonder what it is that makes us different from others and why customers would choose our products. When we looked at them, we found that we have one of many. At that time, in accordance with our mission, values and strategic orientations, we decided that we really wanted to be different from others, do something good for the planet and for all our descendants, and become one of the most competent companies in the eyes of the client.
We are aware that we cannot change everything at once, so we have determined the so-called phases of what we change in the short, medium and long term.
How did you define your mission when you decided to focus on the circular economy and what measures does it all cover?
Our mission is to take care of our planet by helping to change people's habits and thus keep the planet beautiful and clean. We choose our strategic partners in a similar way. We teach the existing ones a new way of thinking, and it is important for the new ones to have similar values as us. That they have a sustainable view of the world and want products made from environmentally friendly materials.
We started with small steps, as we believe that even small shifts bring top results, especially if they are aimed at the good of the planet. We try to make all the products of our own brand from bio-based and bio-degradable materials or recycled materials. Currently, 85% of all self-branded products are either recycled or organic material. In the field of strategic industry, we work in accordance with regulations, but in any case, our desire is to use the largest possible share of recyclables and bio materials.
We follow sustainable development at every step. We are not only developing products in this direction, but also packaging. We are also sustainable in the field of energy, as the electricity with which we make products is from renewable sources.
What does this mean for your company’s revenue and operations?
Nowadays, this type of business is certainly more expensive. Sustainable materials are more expensive, the electricity from renewable sources we use is more expensive, but it is still our commitment. Our vision, which we follow because we believe in a better tomorrow and in the fact that we can play an extremely important role on this path.
We believe that this is a future that will be created with us by those stakeholders who also believe that we can change the world for the better through sustainable action and joint efforts. At this point, we may be taking a step back in some area, but in the long run, that means three steps forward. Sooner or later, this way will become necessary.
What solutions have emerged in recent years in the production of plastics to make it more environmentally friendly?
Especially in infrastructure and innovation. Much has already been done, such as electric injection moulding machines, the transition to renewable energy sources, new materials such as recyclables, bio-based and biodegradable materials, circulation or the circular economy. However, major investments in these areas are still needed to achieve the goals we want to achieve. Innovation is a key factor in transforming the plastic value chain. It can reduce existing costs and always provide new solutions. Innovative solutions for advanced sorting, chemical recycling and better polymer design can have a powerful effect. Of course, it is difficult to tackle this area on our own, but much can be done at national level, through networking and cooperation. New approaches, such as the development of innovative business models, return logistics or the design of sustainable products, make a significant contribution to reducing plastic waste at source, while definitely achieving additional economic, environmental and social benefits.
What can each of us do when using plastic and what needs to be arranged at the system level?
The fact is that we cannot live without plastic, but on the other hand, we must not drown in it. As we continue to live with plastic, changes are needed in several areas. We can start by removing each of the disposable plastic from use. We want to teach this to everyone around us. The next big step we need to take at a higher, national level is changes in plastic collection, sorting and processing. And that is also why I am glad that at the end of March I was entrusted with the presidency of the platform for the circular economy in the field of plastics. This is a national working group, within which experts will look for solutions in this area, while connecting material flows between Slovenia and Croatia, in order to improve economic indicators.
Why is it necessary to link these material flows into a circular economy?
The European Plastics Strategy has set goals and new commitments for producers and stakeholders in the plastics value chain regarding the circular economy. Plastics are among the best and most useful materials. They offer solutions to many of the technical, environmental, health/hygiene and other challenges of today. On the other hand, plastic waste poses a significant burden on the environment. Because these materials are too valuable to be discarded as waste, and because many of them can be recycled many times, the introduction of a circular economy in the field of plastics is more logical - it provides an opportunity for more consistent environmental protection and sustainable resource management. Also, for economic development - with a smart organization of the transition of the entire value chain for plastics from a linear to a circular model, a successful business story can be created.
You have just presented a new version of your Bokashi Organko 2 Ocean composter that will be made from fishing nets. How long have you been developing it and who was all involved in the development?
We have been developing our new product, Bokashi Organko 2 Ocean, for about a year. In the process of developing the new Organko, as in the development of each new product, a large number of departments of the company participated: primarily development, research and innovation, marketing and sales, as well as procurement, logistics, and management.
For the successful and efficient development of a new product, it is important to form a project team consisting of experts in individual functional areas. Other employees and, if necessary, external experts also participate in the development with the project team.
How big a problem are fishing nets in the oceans?
As we know, we produce 360 million tons of plastic in the world. At least 8 million tons of plastic go into the oceans. It’s the same as unloading a load of a full truck into the water every minute. More than 650,000 tons of waste fishing nets fall into the water every year. In 2018, more than 300 turtles were found on the Oaxaca coast of Mexico alone, getting entangled in fishing nets and dying. There are many more facts that you can find on our social networks.
Where do you get the fishing nets that are recycled in the new Organko? How is their processing carried out?
It all starts with the collection of waste fishing nets in various ports, at fishermen, as well as shipyards that carry out the renewal of the fishing fleet. It is an area of the Indian Ocean. The nets, which are hand-picked, are transported to a special plant, where they are ground, followed by the process of fractions. To put it simply, fishing nets “cook” to a certain extent, that is, de-polymerize and then remove all impurities. In this way, individual additives are added to the cleaned material, which refreshes it, and then it is processed into granulate, a form that can be processed with injection moulding machines.
What other materials are used in the new Organko?
In fact, it is the same material as we used in the previous Organko, the only difference is that we replaced the recycled propylene with ocean polyamide. Other materials remained the same, recycled materials.
At least 30 % of the total product consists of fishing nets. One Organko contains at least 600 g of fishing nets.
What are the most important markets for you? How many new Organkos will you sell this year?
Our sales are highest in the northern countries: Denmark, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway.
Sales of our own brand products increased by 48 percent last year - compared to 2018, and we gained 21 new business customers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Iceland, Lebanon, Portugal, USA. The key markets are Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Switzerland.
New customers already waiting for the first shipment of Bokashi Organko 2 Ocean are coming from France, but of course we are targeting all the markets where we are currently present with our kitchen composter. We are convinced that with our new environmentally friendly product we will also penetrate new, less accessible world markets.
The sales target for the first three months of Bokashi Organko 2 Ocean sales is 5,000 pieces of composters.
You are also one of the ambassadors of the national campaign for the promotion of the Slovenian economy, run by SPIRIT Slovenia under the slogan "I FEEL SLOVENIA. Green. Creative. Smart. «. What opportunities does this title bring?
We believe that through a national campaign that combines innovative companies with strong values and sustainable development, we will present ourselves to those who have not known us so far. Our presence abroad is quite high at the moment, as our exports account for as much as 96 percent of all business. We are present in more than 50 markets abroad, but we still want to raise the profile and reputation in the international environment. To show the world that we are a smart factory that is ready to implement even the most demanding solutions with its knowledge, own development, innovations and patents.
We hope for new collaborations, expanding business to new foreign markets, meeting new partners who are ready to work with us for the good of the environment and for people. Certainly, the weight of a state-supported campaign that will be launched as part of multi-channel advertising and continuous communication with target audiences, the media and partners is several times greater than a campaign that would be approached independently.
You are also starting the EKOkidCARE project this year. Who is it for and what activities does it include?
In the last year, we have set a strategy of social responsibility, within which special attention will be paid to children, as it is easiest to change their habits. We are aware that the future of the world depends on the values we strengthen in the youngest. They are the ones to start with and are the easiest to teach them a different way of thinking and handling plastic. That is why we decided on the ECOkidCARE program, which will be intended for all children in Slovenia (later also more widely) and will combine various activities. Within this segment, we will fulfil the role of a socially responsible society with our knowledge and financial donations, and we will follow the outlined red thread of social responsibility by educating and raising children. We are already starting in the autumn, and more about the activities and the stakeholders involved will be known at the end of September.
Source: Finance.si, more about Bokashi Organko 2 Ocean on our website.