With these low-tech small production facilities we create new circulair economy
entrepreneurs in developing countries. Learn more about Squarry below
THE PLASTIC PROBLEM
As a material, plastic has many superior qualities over others making it the primary material for packaging of products. Using different materials would increase weight by 3.6 times, double the energy needed to make it, and emit nearly 3 times as much greenhouse gases when considering the complete value chain. Furthermore, plastic is cheaper, easy processable and best of all, it can be recycled up to 6 times.
At present though, the better part of plastic waste is perceived as valueless, most of it ends up in landfills or in an incinerator at its end of life. However, plastic waste that is not properly collected and processed ends up in our rivers, the sea, forests, and eventually even the animals we eat. Plastic waste is currently rapidly becoming a part of our food chain and ecosystem.
Although the problem is global, recent years have shown a dramatic increase of plastic consumption in Africa and global emerging economies; the rise of prepackaged foods have resulted in a flood of plastic packaging, which is still disposed of like the traditional organic ones. But, while production thrives, recovery is yet to sprout into existence – there are little to no large scale waste management systems in place to keep up with local production, let alone with the waste that washes up on shore. Many governments globally have lacked capacity and drive to provide waste management services to all its inhabitants – the easiest and prevailing disposal is burning household waste. Plastic waste thus creates a problem in nature, and its fumes bring unhealthy conditions for people – while it could be recaptured and used.
Current plastic recycling machinery used in developed countries is expensive and large-scale, requiring a high level of infrastructure of collection, logistics and operations and maintenance – all of which are hard to organize in emerging economies, and often need government support. To get such a recycling system working, not only high investments are needed in the machinery, but also in training of staff, transportation of plastic waste to the machine and making sure there is enough market demand for the produced products.
Another widely used model is collecting plastic waste and shipping it to other countries for recycling. However transport is expensive in Angola, making it not interesting to sell plastic to middlemen.
So, the threshold of starting a recycling business is high – in cost and infrastructure needed. In order to fight the plastic problem we need to stimulate plastic recovery by making the tools available for the masses. Squarry tackles the plastic problem by principles of disruptive innovation; turning high tech plastic processes, years of optimization and extensive expertise into simplified low-tech solutions that fit local needs by being affordable, profitable and understandable. This way plastic can be recycled in more places, decentralized, even in remote areas. By bringing the recycling tools closer to the plastic waste we reduce the distance plastic needs to travel to be recycled while the produced products can serve local needs, and provide added income locally.
However, the local recyclers are not driven by reducing the environmental problem but they are driven – like every entrepreneur – by making money. Therefore Squarry provides a business in a box for a local entrepreneur. The recyclers (- or producers) can set up a self-sustaining business using our tools, business principles and network.
We enable the creation of valuable products (building materials, rope, and household products) out of currently worthless plastic waste – a resource widely, freely and readily available everywhere. Entrepreneurial solutions for everyday problems are sought after in Africa, with Squarry we answer this demand; providing entrepreneurial opportunities while reducing the plastic waste problem.
‘We increase the recovery of plastics by making recycling tools available for the masses by lowering the threshold of starting a recycling business and providing profitable entrepreneurial solutions.’ – ir. Bart Bleijerveld, Squarry
Squarry develops and sells these low-tech affordable, profitable and understandable plastic recycling tools. The produced useful products can be sold on the local market or via the Squarry city office in large batches to wholesalers or on the global market.
We offer a portfolio of recycling tools with a price range between 10 and 500 dollar that can be selected by the local entrepreneur based on local conditions; type of plastic waste and demand for products.
Already, there are three Squarry recycling solutions in a late stage of development, using principles of cutting, melting and casting. Each tool currently uses PET bottles as input material but all three offer a different product outcome; ranging from rope to tiles to bricks to cutlery to fishing nets. PET has been selected as a starting material since it is easy to recognize, has a steady supply (used for drinking water) and is of high quality. PET is a difficult to recycle type of plastic which requires high tech and expensive plastic recycling installations to process. Instead PET is usually shredded and send of to India or China to be recycled. By recycling PET into products by the local entrepreneur, more value is added.
Orgin of Squarry
Early 2014 Heerema Marine Contractors and Better Future Factory started the PolyMore project, which was recently renamed to ‘Squarry’, to reduce the plastic waste problem by empowering local entrepreneurs in Angola to make useful products out of plastic waste.
Initially the idea was to transfer the developed technology in the Perpetual Plastic Project by Better Future Factory to recycle plastic waste for 3D-printing to Angola. The recycling of plastic for 3D-printing is now done by Refil on a larger scale in The Netherlands. But the 3D-printing technique however was not suited for the local Angolan context because the lack of a stable power source, lack of spare parts and sensitivity of the technique.
Instead a project was started to design plastic recycling tools specifically made for this local context. Tools that are reliable, easy to understand and affordable for local entrepreneurs that want to start a business.
The past two years a team of five industrial designers and engineers worked on the project supported by experts from Heerema, an Angolan advisory team and many others. Two field researches provided essential information about the local context and feedback on testing of the first prototypes with local communities. After two year of testing and development of this new technology we found a way that works in the most harsh environments with great results.
PolyMore participated and was finalist in the accelerator program Our Oceans Challenge 2015 where the business model was developed supported by participating companies and experts.
The developed technology in this partnership now has become tangible and is ready to be tested in the local Angolan context. We now need other partners to join the project to work towards implementation of the technology and help to create impact through scaling up the business.