Tomi Nyman Column

Aiming for Exclusive or Inclusive Life on Earth

Driving a sustainable future requires new ways of thinking and structures. Tomi Nyman's bi-weekly column aims to bring some food for thought into the discussions and development of the industry. Today, Tomi writes about aiming for exclusive or inclusive life on earth.

Dreaming about a luxurious holiday on a beautiful island, with white sandy beaches, palm trees, gentle breeze, live music and great food.

Shopping streets with all the high priced goods you could ever imagine made available to you..?

As humans we all wish to access something exclusive, something wonderful, beautiful, great. But, we have forgotten, that exclusive means we exclude others out.

In the end no-one wants to get excluded.

Bioplastics are currently being excluded in many ways, due to specific performance expectations dictated by traditional plastics, but also by the recyclers as the polymers with new chemistry are not recycled as plastics labelled 1 to 6, but are sorted as 7 or other.

A few years back, I was sitting in the kitchen with a 90 year old family friend our family has known since 1957, having a cup of coffee and home-made bread.

She asked me: ‘Tomi, how seriously do you take climate change?’ My response was: ‘Extremely seriously, everyone should’.

Many people of that generation have lived in poverty in Europe and they have raised children, created a welfare and a strong foundation for a balanced society where products were valued, taken care of, repaired. At least this is what many of us think.

Looking into the last 20 years, these elder people have started to wonder why do people today need to have 28 pairs of shoes, 8 pairs of jeans and 10 new shirts every year, change cars every 3 years, buy a new sofa and a trip to the holiday island every year.

Still a few decades ago, the holiday trip was an occasion, sofas were made to last, fridges and washing machines lasted 20 years. I still use a T-shirt bought in 1992, things can be made to last!

After Greta Thunberg and Ellen MacArthur surfaced the news with Klimatstrejk and the plastic ocean, the news have gradually turned towards sustainability.

More and more news can be read about the problems – but we need to gain media attention for the solutions as well.

Solving most of these issues will take a few decades, building the infrastructure and systematically turning towards circular bioeconomy.

Products need to be designed to last, to be reusable, repairable, and materials recyclable.

Also bioplastics fit the recycling scene as some work in mechanical recycling and many of them, like polyesters, are suitable for depolymerization.

Composting is another form of circular economy, but it does not always make sense to produce expensive soil.

Linear economy is a relic. We must move from discussions to actions and ensure bioplastics are maintained in the loop as long as possible.

With every loop, bioplastics displace their volume of fossil plastics and reduce the society’s dependence on crude oil.

This goes equally for the bio-based conventional plastics just as well as the more novel chemistries.

The challenge the new polymers face on the recycling market is that they are excluded: they do not fit the 1-6 streams named after the conventional plastics and need to gain enough volume to incentivize separation and recycling.

This is a joint effort the industry has to tackle and work with the policy-makers globally to enable circularity. With recycled bio-based polymers, a massive amount of atmospheric CO2 can be stored into products.

All in all, life is not about excluding others, but becoming more inclusive – in many ways!

Tomi Nyman

Tomi has 20 years of experience in business development, strategy and business head functions in the chemicals and bioplastics business.

He has set himself a career target of cutting global emissions by 1 Gt and aims at turning the global plastics production bio-based.

He has expertise in bio and circular economy, value chain creation, disruption, materials technology, synthesis, polymerization, sustainability and responsibility, IPR, sales, marketing and strategy.

He holds an MSc (Tech) in chemistry and polymer technology from Helsinki University of Technology (Aalto University). Tomi works as CCO at Woodly and is a board member at Kamupak.

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