BEWiSynbra Group – Closing the Circle

BEWiSynbra Group is a leading provider of EPS materials and the components in insulation and construction material in Europe. Working as an integrated company, BEWiSynbra produces its own raw materials and supplies them to its own downstream processes alongside other external customers, giving the company good knowledge of market dynamics in Europe. We learn how a leading provider of EPS materials is leading the charge to a circular economy.

“We are an integrated supplier, with our own raw material and our own production units,” says Jonas Siljeskär, CEO of BEWiSynbra. “By managing the entire value chain we can close the loop while leading the industry’s development toward a more circular approach.

This means taking responsibility for the entire life cycle of EPS from procurement of input goods to product development and production, to collection and recycling of EPS that will form the raw materials for new products.”

A Great Responsibility

Of course, lots of companies talk big about the sustainability of their work, but for BEWiSynbra this is more than a marketing exercise.

“Founded in the Norwegian archipelago, BEWiSynbra has been committed to sustainability and focused on reusing EPS long before sustainability became a buzzword,” Siljeskär insists. “EPS is amazing as it is completely recyclable, and we strive to become the EPS manufacturer with the strongest sustainability profile. In 2018, we established BEWiSynbra Circular, a unit for minimizing the company’s impact on the environment using concepts and operations for recycling EPS.”

The important thing, Siljeskär tells us, is for companies to be accountable for their role in protecting the environment.

“Being in the plastic industry, we need to take full responsibility, so we’re looking  to our suppliers to also follow our guidelines when it comes to the circular economy by recycling their materials.” He says. “We create value to our customers by providing them with whole solutions, and the circular offering is a crucial part of that solution. We have a very rewarding working relationship with many of our customers. A good example of how cooperation can bring a great result to the customer is how our main supplier of EPP now have provided the recycled raw material for EPP. We are constantly looking at new ways of working and solutions in order to develop with our customers and market needs”.

While the company is keen to embrace their role in creating a more sustainable future, it’s not a goal they can achieve alone, and Siljeskär points out that Europe has a long way to go in establishing the kind of plastic recycling infrastructure necessary.

“The challenge is huge, that’s why I like our company. We never give up. Whenever we take two steps back it’s so we can pick up speed and move forward,” he says. “Europe is not so mature when it comes to plastic recycling. Glass and aluminium, that has already had established systems for many years. But there’s also evidence since we’ve debated plastic within the European Union that they will be adding taxes to the plastic industry, with all the plastics in the ocean and the microplastics.”

BEWiSynbra is establishing itself as a front runner in this arena alongside its suppliers.

“We need to play a very important part in taking the plastic sustainability work to the next level. In the EU today there are no systems at all to collect and decide what to do with plastic materials,” Siljeskär says. “For aluminium and glass bottles, they have this system in place already, it is possible. The main challenge is to establish that system in Europe for plastic.”

While Siljeskär is keen for the governments in the EU to take a lead on this matter, BEWiSynbra isn’t going to wait around for that to happen.

“Our role is very clear at least to us,” he says. “We are doing real things, putting up greenfield factories that will have to do business as a collector and processor to get the polystyrene back to our raw materials factories. We’re buying other companies that are doing waste collecting, we’re investing in extrusion technology and chemical recycling. We’ve invested 10 million euros over three years in our circular system, and have 20,000 tons of collected polystyrene from the market going back to our production.”

At the same time as paying attention to the environmental stakes, Siljeskär also recognises that the market they’re operating in is becoming more competitive.

“It’s very important we look at the waste market today as a competition because everyone is starting now to be interested in the waste streams. The waste will be a ticket to us to avoid the planned taxes on microplastic, so we need to keep up,” Siljeskär says. “Our target is 60,000 tons of collected polystyrene from the market, which is the amount of EPS we sell that is estimated to have a life-cycle of under one year.”

Keeping to the Mission

While the issues around plastic pollution are essential and pressing, other issues have risen to the top of every business agenda this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact across the board, but it hasn’t dissuaded BEWiSynbra from its priorities.

“We had the same question last week from our board, and we among many other companies in this part of Europe were of course very much impacted by the corona outbreak,” Siljeskär tells us. “It started at the beginning of March, and in April we could see the technical packaging and components weren’t selling. The pandemic hit certain regions and countries harder than others, so while deliveries to the automotive industry were severely impacted our business in other segments were more or less unaffected. We are selling raw material, going to different products which have been doing very well even with the corona outbreak. We saw no decrease in insulation and construction markets and many countries are investing more heavily in the infrastructure at trains, airports, and highways. We noted some decreases in volumes during the first months of the pandemic, but from early summer we can see that the volumes have stabilized. The pandemic was an efficient stress test for us, and we are glad to see that our business model proved to be very resilient. “

Looking beyond COVID, BEWiSynbra is keen to stay with its mission, working closely with suppliers and customers for a better tomorrow.

“We need to stay together and closer to our customer. We do believe that our way of doing business with our suppliers and customers will be going hand in hand with them,” Siljeskär says. “For instance, we can see that the Automotive business want us to work them . They want us involved at an early stage as we’ve started to develop automotive products to supply them with. This is an example of our supplier developing raw materials containing recycled material to make the next car more sustainable.”

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