Friday, July 12, 2024

“Our target is to be the world’s most premium polymer processing company” – Anantshree Chaturvedi

Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice chairman and chief executive officer, Flex Films International. Photo: The Packman

Our target was never to be India’s largest or the world’s largest. Our target is to be the world’s most premium polymer processing company” – Anantshree Chaturvedi

Uflex’s global film manufacturing arm Flex Films, as part of its commitment towards greener environment, is offering an entire range of PCR grade film having minimum 90% post-consumer recycled PET content under the brand name Asclepius. Flex Film’s Asclepius patent pending film technology is a family of plain, treated, coated, high barrier and heat-sealable BOPET films based on 90% PCR polymer content. This film represents a 75% reduction in carbon footprint versus virgin BOPET grades. We recently met Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice chairman and chief executive officer, Flex Films International to know more about the new film. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Mahan Hazarika: With the rise of green consumerism and need for brands to act on sustainable packaging, what is the scope and growth of Asclepius?

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Anantshree Chaturvedi: Asclepius is the brand for our 90% PCR-based PET film. We started off with our 30% PCR grade films. But with our pioneering technology, now we have come up with the 90% PCR BOPET film – Asclepius. This is the only 90% PCR BOPET film that has received the prestigious ‘Kingfisher’ Certification from SCS Global Services that certifies that Flex Films’ PCR grade films contains minimum 90% post-consumer recycled PET content.

Asclepius was the Greek God of medicine. So we put the name of the brand in conjunction with that it is the medicine for the earth. We all talk about plastic waste and sustainability, huge garbage hills and large patches of marine waste causing damage to the entire ecosystems. Just the other day, I read about one of the most infamous plastic debris patches which is three times the size of France that floats between Hawaii and California. So, while everybody is talking about sustainability, we decided to do something tangible about sustainability and under that we started the brand Asclepius.

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Label stocks and liners by UPM Raflatac using 90% PCR films

Today’s consumer, especially the young consumer who have purchasing power are actively making a conscious choice of not buying a particular product, specially a FMCG product, if the packaging philosophy or the packaging material that is used in that brand doesn’t suit or match up to their particular moral code which is to be environmentally friendly.

Because these consumers will not buy products which are not environmentally friendly, every packaging company must make products that those consumers will be able to buy without adding to the burden of plastic waste in the environment. Asclepius is our answer for that. If you see, most large consumer companies have made significant commitments that by 2025 they will be plastic-free, they will be 100% plastic recycled or they will have a complete closed-loop supply chain where plastic gets reprocessed and reused. So this is our effort and trying to help consumers make a better choice as well as help those large brand owners and managers have options when it comes to plastic recycling and plastic reprocessing.

Mahan Hazarika: Is there any risk/challenges that Uflex will not be able to source adequate PCR in future to produce enough Asclepius film?

Anantshree Chaturvedi: It is not easy to tell this right now because the project has just started. Now this completely depends on the scalability of the project. Today as I see, as I also described to you, there are many places all over the world where there are large amounts of access plastic wastes. This waste is a combination of plastic waste that has been manufactured, used and stayed in this places for years as well as new plastic waste that gets added unfortunately at a very significant rate everyday. Now for the next couple of years, as this type of initiatives scale up, we don’t predict there being any kind of shortage of post consumer recycled material to convert back to Asclepius film. However, by 2040 to 2050 when according to various global trend reports, including McKinsey Energy Insights 2019, the use of fossil fuel will get reduced by almost 90%, I believe that changing of PCR waste will start running into shortage during that time. The world then will stop using fossil fuel the way we use it today. So by 2040, I believe, if things scale up according to global trends, we will run into a shortage. But I don’t think there will be any shortage till 2040. And if we do run into a shortage where we cannot find waste material, I think that is a very good situation for both the plastic industry and the planet earth.

Label stocks and liners by UPM Raflatac using 90% PCR films

Mahan Hazarika: What are the steps taken by Uflex for sourcing the necessary PCR volume? Tell us a bit about your waste collection workflow?

Anantshree Chaturvedi: Right now what we are doing is we are looking at partnering with local authorities near our global sites in the US, Poland, Mexico and Egypt for waste recycling facilities. For our present requirements, we have significant contracts in place with agencies and various local authorities that help us collect these wastes. In future, we are actually looking at setting up large scale PCR recycling plants with the help of local authorities right next to where their waste sorting facilities are. Today, for us the ideal scenario is to set up facilities which will cost US$ 15 to 20 million per site. I believe, in the long run this price will go down significantly – hopefully US$ 7 to 8 million per site where we can set up facilities next to these reprocessing centers.

Uflex’s strategy is to localize the collection process as much as possible. Localization makes it convenient for both consumers and the localized centers to run the collection process successfully. That I think will be the future and that should be our target as well.

Mahan Hazarika: What is the volume of Asclepius you are producing currently? Which are the markets you are catering to right now and what are your plans way forward?

Anantshree Chaturvedi: Right now Asclepius is mainly being produced in the US. We have scaled up this product quite significantly. We have really gone from zero to selling about 300-500 tonnes a month. We are really optimistic about selling more than 1200-1500 tonnes a month by quarter to next year or even sooner. The markets we are catering to right now are primarily developed markets like the US, various parts of Europe, and certain parts of Latin America. But the real demand of this product has not yet started coming out of Asia. We are seeing some movement in India, in Japan and some other Asian markets but it is basically right now mostly a Europe- and US-centric market.

Label stocks and liners by UPM Raflatac using 90% PCR films

Mahan Hazarika: From being India’s largest to the world’s largest, how Uflex is competing at a global stage in its ambition of doubling its manufacturing facilities for packaging films by 2025, with new plants being set up in Hungary, Nigeria and Russia?

Anantshree Chaturvedi: Our target was never to be India’s largest and also our target is never to be the world’s largest. Our target is to be the world’s most premium polymer processing company and we want to create an impact which is profitable to the world as well as for us. So for us, setting up new plants in Hungary, Nigeria and Russia is simply to serve our customers better. Our vision is to become the most fruitful and most efficient just-in-time delivery polymer company in the world. The largest figure are sometimes very confusing. If you are the largest but not profitable, then there is no point of being the largest. The largest should also mean that you have the best top-line as well as the best bottom-line. Today, Uflex has a very strong top-line and I know that our bottom line will improve significantly with what we are doing in the future – and that is our target.

 

Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika has been serving as the Editor of The Packman since 2017, demonstrating an impressive decade-long expertise in the field of writing about the printing and packaging industry. In his leisure time, he indulges in his passions for music, travel, and watching movies.

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