That plastic is a major threat to the environment is no longer news. Every year, 5 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into our seas and oceans. And that's not even counting plastic that is left on the streets or ends up in nature. It takes years for this material to decompose and what's more, the waste threatens animals and humans. Time for an alternative, Biopack Packaging thought. That's why they want to replace plastic with their biodegradable packaging material, made from wood fiber.
Patented product replaces plastic packaging
'The current consumption of plastic is no longer sustainable,' says Jacob Kielman, CEO of Biopack Packaging. 'We see more and more awareness when it comes to sustainability and circular production. Also in politics. Look for example at the ban on the free provision of plastic bags. We expect more adapted legislation in the future; this is also happening in our surrounding countries.' At the same time, finding a good alternative to plastic is proving difficult: 'The biggest challenge in our product development has been water resistance.
Our packaging material is made of wood fibers, cellulose, and this does not naturally mix well with moisture. By using certain additives, we still managed to get our products waterproof. We have therefore patented this.'
First orders from the 'horti market'
With this, the company offers an alternative to plastic packaging materials of all shapes and sizes. Initially, they wanted to use this to entice the food sector to reduce their plastic footprint. That proved more difficult than expected. This sector has to deal with very strict regulations. Rightly so, of course, and eventually it will certainly succeed in complying with them, but the process is time-consuming. So for now we have taken a turn to a completely different market: the horti market. Flowers and plants as we buy them at garden centers or florists are often in plastic pots or trays. We are going to replace these with our material," says Kielman. The first order is already in and there are serious talks about more orders. 'We are talking about very large production quantities here; we have requests for orders of twenty million pieces. This means that our machines will soon be permanently occupied and we can invest in machines with a higher production capacity. That's how we're going to grow in the near future.'
'That one plastic container probably won't make the difference'
The focus on a more sustainable world and less plastic is increasing in all facets. Biopack Packaging is therefore also looking to connect with parties who want to raise awareness around this problem. Kielman: 'Our product is better for the environment than plastic, but also more expensive. Someone has to pay for that. If consumers can choose between paying more or paying less, they often think: 'Ah that one plastic container won't make the difference.' But almost everyone thinks that. So we will all have to get used to the idea that paying more for a more sustainable alternative is an investment in our future. In Scandinavian countries this mindshift is already well advanced, Southern Europe is a bit behind in this and we are in between. Yet the change is palpable and we foresee the market for our alternative growing. We also have little competition now, so if it is up to us we will keep steaming ahead.'
Favorable business climate
The three founders and the five employees have grand ambitions when it comes to conquering the market in the Netherlands and abroad. All from Appingedam. 'The participation of the NOM and the GROEIfonds is the main reason we are here. The northern Netherlands has a very favorable business climate and good opportunities for funding. That is essential for companies dealing with innovative product development, because that is simply expensive. So an excellent and sustainable cooperation.
CHANTAL LEIJENDEKKER investment manager NOM:
Biopack is responding smartly and very timely to an important market development. The lead time to eventual production is often long with these kinds of new products, but we have every faith in the potential. For us, these kinds of sustainable solutions are very interesting.
ALLARD VAN DER HORST investment manager GROEIfonds:
The first contacts with Biopack date from a year ago. In such a funding process, it is essential that communication is good. Not only between us and the company, but with all the financiers involved. That went very smoothly here and so we were able to act quickly and well on Biopack's needs. With the first major contracts soon to be signed, more will soon follow. If one sheep crosses the dam, more will follow. And we look forward to that with great confidence.