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The wow factor of recycled plastics

Willemijn Peeters (left): 'We can help our clients incorporate recycled plastic into their products without downgrading either in function or aesthetics.'

‘It’s been a busy year – a year of growth for us,’ says Willemijn Peeters, ceo of Searious Business. The Dutch entrepreneur is especially proud her company has helped Morocco clean up its plastic waste by boosting the nation’s recycling infrastructure.

In her own words, Willemijn Peeters explains that her company Searious Business specialises in helping producers and organisations ‘turn disaster into design’ by transforming production waste into high-end products. Despite the pandemic, the five-year-old social enterprise continues to celebrate new milestones. ‘We’ve expanded the team, moved to a bigger location and taken on more projects than ever before,’ she tells Recycling International. ‘Early projections suggest our efforts recycled over 2 000 tonnes of plastic waste this year and we hope to double that in 2022.’

Big hit in Morocco

Running into Peeters at the PRSE expo in Amsterdam, it’s clear to see she is not solely focussing on recycling challenges close to home. In fact, Searious Business’s PET bottle take-back scheme in Morocco has collected over 2.5 tonnes of bottles since being launched in March. This new return deposit system is running at two locations in Rabat, which is the country’s seventh largest city with an urban population of approximately 580 000.

Morocco generates more than one million tonnes of plastic waste every year and more than a third of that is dumped in uncontrolled landfills. ‘I’m glad to say our bottle collection initiative has become incredibly popular, Peeters says. ‘The Mossup Project has really exceeded all expectations. The supermarkets involved are enthusiastic about upscaling and we are in talks about a nationwide roll-out.’

The only stumbling block is securing sufficient funding. ‘Ideally, the bottle producers would provide initial funding for the deposit system. A very minimal investment could potentially save millions of bottles from ending up in landfills or leaking into the environment. If all goes well, we hope to begin the next phase in Morocco in January 2022.’

A future step would be to expand the supermarket collection scheme to other foreign markets. Searious Business believes there is ‘massive potential’ for deposit return systems in developing countries, considering how much they depend on bottled water. ‘This means they produce huge volumes of plastic waste. If this can be collected efficiently, it can provide an additional revenue stream for the local economy, supporting informal waste pickers and keeping plastic bottles out of the environment.’

Connecting islands

Meanwhile, the business’ primary role as co-developer and implementer of the Plastic Waste-Free Island Project draws to a close at the end of November. ‘We have completed the so-called blueprint of solutions and will be delivering it to the islands’ municipality decision-makers shortly,’ Peeters explains. These include bottle-to-bottle, (fishing) net-to-net recycling, reusable food packaging and waste-to-product design to redirect plastic waste from the overflowing island landfills.

Searious Business received much support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. ‘The prototypes have arrived and the pilots are in full motion with the local working groups, so all is going according to plan. We’re hoping the islands can build on these examples to create lasting change in the future,’ Peeters says.

She acknowledges that developing a recycling system on small islands is a challenge as it often means handling small volumes that are not financially viable. ‘That’s why it was so important to connect the islands together with shipping companies and recyclers on the mainland or as an island hub.’

To better deal with what’s referred to as ‘unrecyclable’ plastics, Searious Business has also developed a web-based tool to identify the most suitable technology for advanced recycling. Any small island authority will be able to enter its plastic data and the app will determine the best solution for dealing with the waste.

Read the full article in our Plastics Special, published in our latest issue >>

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One thought on “The wow factor of recycled plastics

  • To tell the truth, I admire people such as Willemijn Peeters who make a huge contribution to reducing pollution to a minimum and to changing our reality for the better. From my point of view, recycling is an integral part of our life and it has an immense importance for our planet. It’s cool that Searious Business specializes in this certain area and benefits in such a huge way because it is really important to pay special attention to this issue. The fact that Serious Business is expanding arouses a respect and it is so wonderful that this company has a success in Morocco because they are truly in need of recycling. Without any doubts, it is a really difficult and serious step which requires a responsible approach, but you were able to implement helping Morocco clean up its plastic waste.

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