PulPac – Ending Single-Use Plastic
PulPac is building a community to try and replace single-use plastics.
PulPac is a technology provider, but its business model is a little bit alternative, not just in the way it works, but also in its ultimate goal.
“Our differentiated goal is to replace as much single-use plastic as possible,” says Linus Larsson, PulPac’s CEO.
It is an extremely bold goal and one that cannot be achieved by one company alone, as Larsson is the first to point out.
“That means we can’t limit ourselves We need to partner up with as many companies as possible to achieve this goal,” he says. “Instead of manufacturing ourselves, we partner with companies across the value chain.”
PulPac’s method is to offer partner companies a new type of technology and innovation to replace plastics with a fibre-based alternative.
“It is very effective and very sustainable, so we can produce products and single-use packages at a much lower cost with higher efficiency than conventional methods,” Larsson explains.
Partnering with backend supply chain and clients, PulPac aims to replace over a million tons of single-use plastic by 2025.
Achieving something like that doesn’t come out without its challenges.
“We have been operating for three years but I’ve been doing this for a bit longer,” Larsson says.
Linus invented and patented the PulPac technology together with his father Ove Larsson in 2016. He has been working with packaging innovation throughout his career. Now that the market for replacing plastic is taking off, so has the competition, perhaps ironically leading to a shortage of resources
“As we have been growing, we’ve encountered scaling requirements. We need the resources for what is complete a hardware technology,” Larsson explains. “There is a fibre frenzy right now. Sustainability is important to all of society, and the opportunities to replace plastics aren’t that many.”
Conventional alternatives are not working, and so the challenge has become finding the new alternative that can scale as quickly as possible.
“For us, the limit is the supply of hardware components, machines. We need to generate the interest to get the supply chain going and scale up that supply chain to get our machinery out there,” Larsson says. “So, we partner up with other companies, create this community in the industry, collaborating with leaders and getting them to produce on all fronts.”
Building a community
PulPac’s business model is that of a technology provider, and that means staying at the forefront of new technology while selling licenses to customers to produce the product themselves. PulPac meanwhile continues to innovate and learn. But what makes its business model unique is the partnerships PulPac builds, through a process Larsson calls “the onion”.
“PulPac as a tech provider needs to be the expert in all aspects of dry-moulded fibre technology,” Larsson says. “We’re educating partners on the converting side while educating and partnering up with machine builders. What’s required on our end is to be the experts in all aspects of manufacturing these kinds of products. So, partnering up and educating is what we do.”
This kind of relationship goes up and down the supply chain. It is based on education and knowledge-sharing, but there is more to it than that. It is about community building.
“We’re trying to create a dry mould open-source community where we collaborate for the greater good to replace plastics,” Larsson says. “We aim to be in the centre of that community spreading information around. Other customers have very specific expertise, and we look at how to leverage that and how to find new partners. We are the experts in many aspects, but we are also promoting innovation & acting as the connecting party.”
Of course, as well as spreading knowledge, and connecting community members will groups who can learn from each other, PulPac is also learning from the community itself.
“It is certainly a two-way education,” Larsson says. “We are learning from partners at the same time as educating. From a machine perspective, about materials or how to convert a specific product. We want to get the word out there, but also see what could be done now. The challenges are massive so this needs to happen fast, which is what we’re trying to achieve by building this community.”
It is an approach that breeds a different perspective on business. The field is competitive, but at the same time, they are working towards a goal that is far bigger than that.
“The converting business is highly competitive by nature, but from our point of view, it is important to strive for good price points. We can produce this at a low cost, but to make change happen we need to collaborate with other businesses,” Larsson insists. “That’s it. We’re trying to create this community and disrupt the sector for the greater good to replace plastics.”
It is an idea whose time has come. The support for greener packaging and better use of materials is mounting.
“There are so many drivers for changing this industry right now,” Larsson points out. “The Single-Use Plastics Directive started being enforced in 2019. It will start banning plastic items, confetti, cutlery, so that’s a big driver. And I think it’s important that legislation and business are bringing us to a better place, but it also comes down to the end consumer. How do we live? There are lots of single-use items in many ways a necessity for modern society, but we need to make more decisions about how we do that. Consumer behaviour changes are necessary when it comes to recycling.”
It also means that while PulPac has brought innovative solutions to the industry, it cannot stop there.
“It is now key for us at PulPac to stay at the forefront of innovation and develop the technology to be more sustainable,” Larsson says. “There is not just one solution available today but we need to continue to develop and refine the technology itself. We want to continue to lower the energy cost and CO2 emissions. We aren’t using any water, that’s just one great benefit.”
PulPac has already achieved so much, but as Larsson says, “We’re just getting started.”
“It’s about whether can we actually now start scaling this and offering it on a broader basis,” Larsson says. “Our main priority markets have been Europe and the US. But we are currently scaling those markets and moving on to global coverage to meet the interest we’ve seen coming from around the world. Local production is required to become more sustainable, local supply of materials is something we’d like to have. But yeah, we’re really starting to offer this around the world.”