Plastic waste lines every street corner, pollutes entire stretches of land and penetrates as microplastics into the great depths of the sea. The problem: its durability. For example, a PET bottle decomposes within 450 years, a fishing line even within 600 years(NZZ, 2018). This has not only ecological long-term consequences, but also health consequences for humans and animals as well as economic consequences for governments and corporations. A sustainable alternative is needed. FluidSolds offers a solution for this. Beat Karrer, the founder of FluidSolids, explains in this video how FluidSolids why biodegradable plastic can replace petroleum-based plastic in many applications.
Which social challenges does FluidSolids address?
Plastic waste as a remnant of plastic products and the costly disposal of waste materials are a worldwide problem. The inhabitants of Switzerland alone produce over 700 kg of waste per person every year. Only just under half of this is recycled or reused. FluidSolids addresses this problem with an innovative, home-compostable biocomposite made from residues of renewable raw materials. The aim is to use the technology developed to make a contribution to reducing global plastic pollution.
Which approach did FluidSolids choose?
For the production of the material FluidSolids uses fibres as well as natural binders and additives, which accumulate as waste or by-products in huge quantities in agriculture and industry. In addition, the company does not use food in the production of the products, so the material is not in competition with food production. At the end of the life cycle, products made from FluidSolids can either be recycled or disposed of in home compost. Depending on the formulation, the material may also end up in waste paper.
The company’s business model is based on two pillars: the development of customer-specific material formulations and the manufacture of components from FluidSolids. On the one hand, we work very closely with large companies that generate very large quantities of waste that cannot be recycled. These companies often bear high costs for the disposal of waste and by-products. FluidSolids develops tailor-made material formulations for these companies in order to be able to convert disposal costs into added value. On the other hand, FluidSolids supports companies in manufacturing new or existing products with environmentally friendly materials by using parts made of biocomposites. In this way, sustainability strategies can be implemented and costs optimised at the same time.
What are the challenges?
Challenges exist in both business and corporate development. A solution for both cases is only possible with a partner. In order to scale up the materials and products produced in the pilot plant to mass production, FluidSolids is working closely with companies from various industries. New approaches to certain product-specific tasks, such as optimizing water resistance, are also developed in partnership. There are long-standing, established cooperations with various colleges and universities in order to find new solutions and open up further areas of application for the material. According to Beat Karrer, the most important thing for the development of the company is the rapidly growing team, which has a lot of know-how, power and passion. As long as this is fulfilled, the company can concentrate fully on conquering the market and convincing more customers of the product.
What are the effects (impact)?
The technology helps to reduce global plastic pollution of land and water and has a minimal overall environmental impact. The materials produced by FluidSolids can be used for a wide range of products that were previously made from petroleum-based plastics. With the transition to sustainable biocomposites, companies can sustainably change their value chain and use waste materials as a resource. The CO2 balance of the product is also outstanding, as it causes 60-80% less carbon dioxide emissions during production than conventional bioplastics or petrol-based plastics. The materials produced by FluidSolids are also non-toxic and emission-free.
What is FluidSolids’ vision?
“Waste as raw material” as a credo. The vision of FluidSolids AG is to establish the patented material as the most sustainable replacement for petroleum-based plastics on the market without compromising on performance, sustainability and design. By using residues of renewable raw materials for the production of an alternative to petrol-based plastics, a contribution is made to solving the global plastics problem.
How can the solution approach be multiplied and scaled?
FluidSolids offers the possibility of replacing a large number of product components previously made from petroleum-based plastics. This enables companies of various sizes and from various industries to manufacture components in a more sustainable manner. The technology can be easily scaled up and integrated into existing production facilities at the customer’s site, directly where the residual materials are produced. This also minimizes the transport effort and costs.
Like any material, biocomposites are not the right choice for every application. A compostable product is of course not 100% waterproof. This means that it is not suitable for outdoor use. However, FluidSolids has very advantageous mechanical properties compared to conventional plastic, emphasizes Beat Karrer. The material is, for example, even thinly formed still very stable. There are also hardly any limits to the source material. This is illustrated by an example from Beat Karrer: “If 10% of the coffee grounds produced annually in the Federal Republic of Germany were processed into FluidSolids, this quantity of biocomposites could cover over 1% of the world’s demand for plastics!”
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