Back to the Cycle: #tide Turns Ocean Plastic into High-Quality Recyclates
Interview with Marc Krebs, Co-Founder & CCO, Tide Ocean SA
Plastic is a resource without which our life today would not be possible – and thanks to recycling, we can even use it several times over. However, we know from reports what can happen if the recycling process does not run properly: the plastic sometimes ends up in the sea. Getting it back into circulation from there and turning it into a usable product is not easy.
#tide has succeeded: The company has overcome several technical as well as organizational challenges and today turns “trash from the sea” into high-quality raw materials that are in no way inferior to conventional primary materials.
Mr. Krebs, how are high-quality plastic recyclates created from ocean-bound plastics?
Marc Krebs: In a multi-stage process: First, the material has to be collected and delivered. We work with local communities, with fishermen and coastal and island dwellers. The material is weighed, recorded, tracked and paid for at a fair price. It is our top priority to give value to waste from the start – so we incentivize the collection of plastic waste in the affected regions. This is then manually separated in our warehouses, mostly social enterprises. This is how we create further added value and jobs. Then the plastic waste – we mainly process PET, PP and PE – is inspected in appropriately equipped facilities to check that it is of the correct type, washed, shredded and processed into granules. We produce plastics for injection molding, but also polyester yarns for textiles or filaments for 3D printing.
What challenges did you have to overcome during development?
Krebs: Technologically, the task was to define the right approach. To do this, we worked with the Swiss Institute for Materials Technology and Plastics Processing (IWK, Rapperswil), analyzed the nature of the materials in studies, and determined the methodology for the most effective recycling. We recycle mechanically and now offer a clean, high quality raw material that can then be further processed and refined thanks to the knowledge of our technological department and is on a par with the quality of Virgin Plastic.
Another challenge was to export our knowledge to the affected countries in Southeast Asia and to build up the supply chain. Often there is a complete lack of a waste management system. We therefore had to look for the right partners to ensure control from sourcing to compounding and thus also our high quality standards. Transparency and credibility were also important to us right from the start, in order to clearly distinguish ourselves from “black sheep” in the recycling business. As a result, I claim we have now achieved a market-leading position, among other things with the development of a Material Passport: we have the path of our material tracked and recorded on a blockchain. We also meet the highest ethical and environmental standards. All this leads to our goal of not only offering a high-quality raw material, but also delivering a new standard with #tide: To be the world’s most important label for ocean-bound plastic.
What are the advantages of using marine plastics?
Krebs: Only advantages. The threat to the oceans is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. Plastic waste threatens fauna and flora, our food chains, our climate. The blue planet is in danger of suffocating in it, and so are we. By collecting ocean-bound plastic and returning it to the cycle, we are providing a solution to this problem. This is not only ecological – our material is 5 times more environmentally friendly than virgin PET according to mc my external expert opinion – but also sustainable in the economic sense: we create a social impact, create jobs and waste management systems, build infrastructure and pass on our knowledge in workshops.
For which end products can the recyclates be used?
Krebs: We received our first orders from the watch industry, from brands in Switzerland, Scandinavia and the USA, for both watch cases and polyester straps. This enabled us to successfully apply our quality standards to high-precision instruments. In the meantime, products from many other industries have been launched: electronic devices, textiles and fabrics, packaging, and even adult toys are made from our material. Meanwhile, we also receive requests for automobiles and vehicle accessories, for furniture or for products in the construction industry. There are basically no limits.
How do you plan to develop your company and your products in the future?
Krebs: We want to become the world’s most trusted supplier of sustainable plastic products made from marine plastics. To this end, we are currently expanding, opening up the Americas for example, from sourcing to compounding. We want to offer #tide ocean material seamlessly on every continent by 2025, with a broad distribution network and the shortest possible transport routes. In the medium term, we would also like to license our solution. Our dream would be that only recyclates are used for new products, thus protecting the environment, saving fossil raw materials, and creating great added value.
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