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Reelab ‘plays the long game’ in recycled plastics

‘Throw me away, away and away – I will come back,’ was the slogan printed on frisbees handed out by the Reelab team at the recent Plastics Recycling Show Europe in Amsterdam. ‘We organised a little competition in which whoever throws it the furthest wins a trip to Gothenburg,’ says company ceo Kristin Nilsson. ‘It’s a fun way to demonstrate the circularity of a heavily debated material.’

Swedish plastic scrap trader ReeLab, part of the Axjo Group, acts as a ‘matchmaker’ between those supplying recycled plastics and the end users. ‘Recyclers and producers in our network are mostly looking for PP, PET, LDPE and HDPE,’ Nilsson adds. ‘Today, our connections in the polymers industry stretch far beyond Scandinavia to cover America, Europe and Asia.’

Demand for recycled plastics is high and her team is busier than ever. ‘We’re hoping to set up our own recycling facility this year to convert material in-house,’ Nilsson tells Recycling International. Reelab provides around 6 000 tonnes of recycled plastic to its customers and would like to match the total in processing capacity.

‘We’re still a relatively young company, established in 2011. I became the owner in 2016 and have been wanting to scale up ever since.’ Momentum was building but plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. ‘Now seems like a good time to expand our operations.’

The entrepreneur underlines the importance of sustainable growth. ‘There are no shortcuts in this line of business. There’s no point is building a mega plant to show off if the market is not yet ready. Progress has to make sense. We’re in plastics for the long run, we’re playing the long game.’

For Nilsson, attending the expo in Amsterdam feels like coming home. ‘I lived in the Netherlands for over a decade working at several polymer companies,’ she recalls. ‘I’ve seen all sides of plastics: production, sales, exports and now its recycling potential.’

She regrets that plastics suffers from a bad reputation, arguing that the material itself isn’t the problem. ‘It’s how we use it or waste it. It’s a behavioural problem. Taking responsibility to fix that also lies with us.’

This is a personal matter for Nilsson, who grew up in a region in Sweden boasting 120 polymer companies. ‘At the same time, I know our country incinerates and exports a lot of plastics. Even as a child, I knew I wanted to get involved in cleaning up what we put on the market – to help turn the tide. At 16 years old, I formed the ambition to run my own company. I’m glad I’m so much closer to realising my dream on both counts!’

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