There’s a saying in Yorkshire, here in the UK – ‘Where there’s muck there’s brass’. You are probably unfamiliar, so let me explains – brass is an old term for money, and the muck in this context is waste or dirt from which can come opportunity. It’s not heard very often these days. But perhaps it is time to bring it back into everyday use. For most companies, disposing of their production residues and wastes is a costly and sometimes difficult process. But a new generation of companies are developing platforms that can turn this source of expense into a driver of revenue. And in the vanguard of these companies offering this revolutionary approach is the Zurich based FluidSolids and today our editor Luke Upton sits down with their Founder and CEO, Beat Karrer to talk origins, processes and changing attitudes from brands.
From nutshells to cardboard and spent coffee grounds to corn cobs, each year the amount of residual waste that we produce that is neither used or recycled increases. Whereas most vie these waste materials as a problem to be managed, FluidSolids sees them as an opportunity. Not to be disposed of but instead used as source materials to produce biodegradable composite materials.
Beat tells us of the origin of the company, “I’m a designer by training, and worked extensively around industrial lighting and furniture. We always worked a lot with materials companies and saw an increasing demand for bio-based materials from our clients. But I couldn’t really find what we or the client wanted, so I began experimenting with my own ‘homemade’ bioplastics made from potatoes peelings among other things. I always had a clear idea of what we, and most importantly the client wanted, and after years of experimentation, I launched FluidSolids in 2012. Our innovation, is perfectly designed for the circular economy and the biocomposite can be an alternative material for myriads of products made of metal, wood, and, most pressingly considering the current crisis, plastic.”
The global plastic crisis one is so grave, that it requires revolutionary solutions and FluidSolids is just the kind of market focussed, and wide-ranging answer to this challenging question we need. Their biocomposites offer outstanding mechanical properties, making them suitable for a broad scope of applications and can easily replace conventional plastics in products. This substitution massively reduces the overall environmental impact and enables CO2 savings of up to 80%.
For sustainability managers looking at making a switch, there are two possibilities for using FluidSolids, either by developing a customer-specific formulation to recover the material from the customer’s biological waste or by using a standard formulation of FluidSolids that recycles waste from a third party. And the tension over using produce that otherwise would be intended for the food chain is avoided by its use of by-products of renewable raw material.
The appeal to brands as a material are obvious, but as we all know, making a change is not always that simple. I ask Beat for an insight into how brands are responding to their offering; “Since our launch we’ve seen a change. Between our launch and 2015, very few companies were looking at sustainable materials unless they were markedly cheaper and/or better. Between 2015 and last year we saw this begin to change and in the last twelve months we have seen a real growth in interest.”
“Having long worked with brands I see change normally coming first from the sustainability team, then from marketing, next is the design team and finally is the board. Now all four are pushing for change. What’s driving this? People can’t escape the crisis we are in, but its three main forces: young people, the media and ultimately legislation, or the threat of it are all now making things happen,” added Beat.
The production process for the biocomposites is proprietary and can be scaled to fit clients existing production processes, and matched with conventional techniques of industrial mass production if required. Production of the material is done either at the FluidSolids facility in Switzerland, or at the site where the production waste is being generated. Wherever production takes place, waste streams can be turned into valuable materials.
“As we move into 2020, the team are fully focussed on our customers deriving maximum benefit from the sustainability, design and performance of FluidSolids. And we want to help them make a substantial contribution to reducing environmental pollution by substituting their traditional petroleum-based plastics for our biodegradable biocomposites. Let’s save the world together!” concludes Beat.
For more information on FluidSolids click here www.fluidsolids.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature was first published in our most recent report The feedstocks powering the bio-economy revolution.
For more bio-economy news and examples of plastic innovation, take a look at: