Plastex, a Finnish manufacturer of plastic products, has invested in the use of domestic recycled plastic in collaboration with Fortum. For four generations, since the 1930s, the family-owned business has manufactured plastic products, and now recycled plastic is quickly replacing petroleum-based plastics.
Plastex started out making injection-moulded products, like buttons, combs and toys, and petroleum-based plastics were used as the raw materials. Plastex was the first company in the Nordic countries to start manufacturing blow-moulded products, in the 1950s. The company is currently increasing the share of recycled and bioplastics in production to 35%. This is no small investment because it has acquired new machinery for the recycled raw material.
“Plastic is superior and durable, but sustainability is the challenge of our era, and we must respond to it,” says Marketing Director Arto Ant-Wuorinen from Plastex. “Sustainability and recycling are clearly important values in Finland. The possibility to acquire domestic recycled plastic from Finland has made it easy for us to start investing in sustainable plastic products,” Ant-Wuorinen says about the company’s new direction.
Plastex was considering alternative raw materials for petroleum-based plastics in 2016 – the same year that Fortum started producing Fortum Circo® plastic granulates from post-consumer plastics at the Riihimäki plastic refinery.
“Finnish origin is a big value for us, and collaborating with a domestic raw material supplier sounded like a good alternative right from the start. Previously, our plastic raw material came from Qatar,” says Ant-Wuorinen.
Plastex manufactures various home and garden products from plastic as well as customised plastic products for corporate needs. Millions of product units are made every year. So the choice of raw material is of huge significance when talking about sustainability.
The collaboration got under way with suitability testing and test runs with Fortum Circo recycled plastic. Ultimately, Plastex decided to invest in two blow-moulding machines so that the recycled raw material could be used efficiently in product manufacturing. That resulted in the creation of EKO, a new product line made entirely from recycled plastic.
Plastex was previously known for its colourful plastic products, but recycled plastic has challenged this – in a good way. Certain colours have already taken a role in making recycled plastic recognised.
The EKO product line is a portfolio of consumer-targeted plastic products, like watering cans, spray bottles, funnels and sleds. In addition to grey, the portfolio also includes lavender, green and black products.
“Fortum Circo recycled plastic is grey, so it is very suitable for dyeing. We believe that the product will start to sell sustainability through new colour choices,” notes Ant-Wuorinen.
Fortum is an important partner for Plastex, and not only because of its domestic origin.
“Our collaboration has become closer along the way, and Fortum has had the will to develop the raw material for our needs. And they’ve accepted and met the challenges too,” praises Ant-Wuorinen. “There were some initial challenges with the raw material, e.g. with quality fluctuations, but that has been remedied by working together. Now we are constantly thinking about how we can integrate Fortum Circo recycled plastic also into other products,” says Ant-Wuorinen.
Plastex believes that recycled plastic will become popular also beyond Finland, and the raw material must be made recognised.
“A new standard is being created for the sector, and Finns can be proud of that,” says Ant-Wuorinen. But the greatest thing, says Ant-Wuorinen, is that recycling is further growing, and the new product is also the sustainable choice. “The value chain is splendid: genuine and original post-consumer recycled plastic from Riihimäki to Lohja,” Ant-Wuorinen chuckles.
Plastex will continue developing new products around recycled plastic, and it has at least one already on the drawing board. And the material of choice for it too is Fortum Circo recycled plastic. “We would like to use Fortum Circo recycled plastic more and more because it is a researched and safe raw material from a domestic supplier – it is the product’s sustainability assurance,” Ant-Wuorinen continues.
Renewal is a prerequisite for Plastex because every company should be interested in the condition of the planet.
“Finland also has the prerequisites to capture the plastic market. We already have a lot of good circular economy stories, like the bottle return concept. This recycled plastic produced from household plastic packaging could be the next success story,” says Ant-Wuorinen.