Orthex, a Nordic producer of household products based in Espoo, Finland, is not afraid of trying something new. At the same time, it is also striving to become what it describes as ‘the industry forerunner in sustainability’.
Hence when the company learned about an innovative material from a Danish company based on raw material derived from discarded fishing nets, there was no hesitation. “We immediately wanted to see how this revolutionary plastic raw material is made," said Alexander Rosenlew, CEO of Orthex.
After all, ghost fishing gear is a major source of marine plastic pollution. A single net can remain in the sea for up to 600 years before decomposing. Over 640 000 tons of fishing gear end up in the seas every year, with some 17% of all waste on European shores in 2016 consisting of fishing nets.
The new material is produced from fishing nets and ropes collected from harbours in Scandinavia, the UK and in Northern Europe. These are sorted, cleaned, shredded, and extruded into raw material pellets offering a 94% reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventionally produced virgin plastic.
"The decision to use this new raw material was taken right away when we realised the positive impact using such a material could have both on the oceans and the climate,” said Rosenlew.
Orthex first product containing the new material was a bucket, designed and produced from 100% recycled material. The container is made from the fishing net-based material and the handle is post-consumer recycled plastic. The company has since launched additional products, including wash bowls and water scoops, made from the resin.
Even the labels for the new products were chosen for their sustainable properties. Produced from ocean bound plastic waste, they are made by UPM Raflatac and sold under the Ocean Action name. The plastic waste is harvested from shorelines within 200 meters of the tide line and from waterways within 50km from shore, in communities or areas where waste management is virtually non-existent. The collected plastic is then chemically recycled and used to produce label materials.
Calling the label materials a ‘perfect fit’ with Orthex’ ghost gear-based product range, Orthex introduced Ocean Action label materials on its fishing net products earlier this month (November 2022).
"UPM Raflatac's Ocean Action labels are the icing on the cake, making our products even more sustainable. We can now talk about holistically responsible products,” said Rosenlew.
The Ocean Action label materials are classified as packaging material. He therefore anticipates interest in the European market for the products, noting that “European legislation gives preference to products whose packaging materials are made from recycled raw materials.”
UPM Raflatac collaborates closely with multiple partners in the value chain to produce its Ocean Action labels.
Collection is performed by HHI, a Malaysian-based plastic recycling company that collects and sorts the ocean-bound plastic waste with its partners, before converting this into pyrolysis oil. The pyrolysis oil is used by SABIC to create PP plastic granulates. The plastic granulates are used by film manufacturer Taghleef Industries to produce the label film for the final label material for product labelling.
“The combination is a concrete example of how we can create new products from recycled raw materials with close collaboration and some ingenuity within the value chain,” said Eliisa Laurikainen, Business Development Manager from UPM Raflatac.
The plastic waste is certified under the Zero Plastics Oceans program, and the final label material under ISCC PLUS. The label material is produced using a mass balance approach.