Chile’s Greenspot recycling aquaculture equipment into material to fight COVID-19
Puerto Montt, Chile-based Greenspot – a certified B corporation focused on the circular economy, recycling and reusing plastic waste from industrial sectors, particularly from salmon farming – has found an opportunity to collaborate with the country’s salmon aquaculture companies in an effort to combat COVID-19.
Greenspot has designed the first sanitizing footbath mat made from 100 percent recycled plastic from Chilean salmon farming buoys, floats, and disused containers. The company has been selling the product to companies including Salmones Austral and Mercedes-Benz distributor Kaufmann, as well as the Chilean Navy, and is participating in large procurement tenders.
“We wanted to respond to the pandemic, which has hit hard [in Chile], but we didn’t want to focus on things like facemasks, which lots of people are doing. We wanted to make a product that would be more for when things return to normal, and which is already being used in countries that are a few months ahead of us” in terms of the coronavirus spread, Greenspot Founder and General Manager Benjamín González told SeafoodSource. “So we made the footbath mat from 100 percent recycled plastic, made in Puerto Montt. This is a sturdy, hermetic plastic tray that can hold disinfectant solution for people to sanitize their shoes when they enter a building.”
“In fact, The New York Times has published several articles regarding this. The virus can survive on surfaces for three to four days, so disinfecting shoes is another preventative measure. It won’t eliminate the spread of the virus, but it is a preventative measure to make spaces safer. This is being practiced in the food industry, pharmaceutical industry – any company producing products that needs FDA certification,” he added.
González said to his knowledge, Greenspot’s mats are the first footbath mats to be made with recycled plastic.
“The design has different requirements,” he said. “Fortunately, the prototypes and tests worked out positively.”
Greenspot has sold all of the footbath mats it has made so far and expects to be producing about 500 units a month, which represents 8 to 9 metric tons (MT) of recycled plastic.
“To get an idea, an aquaculture float in the salmon industry has 20 kilograms of plastic, so that’s equivalent to 400 floats, and each float is one square meter.”
The company’s first foray into manufacturing end-use products – rather than recycling plastic into high-density pellets that are sold to industry to be used in the manufacturing process – was as part of a collaboration with salmon farmer Blumar.
“They approached us to help with their circular economy strategy, called Blumar Circular. So we began to develop our first product, which were racks to move drums of water," González said. "They had been importing racks from Canada, and we were able to develop the same racks here in Puerto Montt with 100 percent recycled material and with excellent results.”
Greenspot is also working with U.S. company Bureo, which looks to incorporate net-plus materials (made from recycled fishing nets) into the supply chain, to find partners looking for its recycled plastics. Potential collaborators include outdoors-focused retailer Patagonia, which is interested in integrating Greenspot’s materials into its hard goods and textiles, and other companies that produce items such as chairs, sunglasses, skateboards, and board games. The Chilean firm has also won government funding to develop infrastructure for public plazas, González said.
“In terms of recycling, the high-standard processing units need to be close to the sources of generation. So we’re looking to develop the products close to where the waste is generated, in order to save on CO2 generation, production processes, [and] to [create] local jobs and associated entrepreneurship. This is a much more sustainable way to look at entrepreneurship and that’s what we’re aiming for,” González noted.
While González said he hopes to develop more products, currently, 98 percent of the company’s sales are still high-quality pellets for the plastics fabrication sector. But he said he hopes to foster a closer relationship with Chile’s aquaculture industry, potentially manufacturing products from its waste stream back into usefuleness.
“We want to continue working on this and make it more and more viable, using these raw materials to make high-quality products to be used in manufacturing plastic products, and start to make specific products in a collaborative way with the aquaculture industry, and in that way install a culture of circular industry that’s very focused on regions and on the centers where the waste is generated,” González said. “It’s important for me to show that the circular economy is not just possible, but necessary. We can do this in Chile. It requires a lot of logistics. This isn’t collecting waste and sending to China or Malaysia. It’s generating local production and manufacturing here in Puerto Montt. In this way, we’re contributing to slowing climate change and reducing CO2.”
Concern over the amount of waste generated in Chile’s seafood industry began nagging González several years ago, after a stint working for Fundación Chile, a public-private partnership that promotes sustainable development – as well as salmon farmer Yadran and industry association Salmon Chile.
“I was traveling to Puerto Montt, Chiloé, Puerto Aysén, and I realized that there was a lot of plastic waste, lots of material. And there was unmet demand for recycled plastic, which didn’t make much sense because we had the material,” he said. “So why couldn’t we ourselves process it and produce it?”
González first got the idea to form Greenspot began in 2014. The company was launched in May 2017 and that year processed 250 MT of plastic. That number rose to 460 MT in 2018 and last year the company handled nearly 800 MT, adding Styrofoam to waste handled, coming from the salmon industry’s floaters and buoys, as well as packaging from the food industry.
Last year, Greenspot saw revenues of USD 700,000 (EUR 621,000) and it now has nine employees.
“We have a problem, a challenge with the generation of waste, but we can solve this, we have to take responsibility for it. All of this process can be addressed hand-in-hand with industry to look for alternatives where we can use more kilos of plastic,” González said. “In our case, we’re looking for opportunities to put more plastic pellets in more products. Recycling and the circular economy are opening up tremendous opportunities.”
Photo courtesy of Greenspot