Interview with Tuomas Mustonen
It is good to start from the beginning. Paptic was founded in April 2015. It three of us: I, Esa and Karita. We all were working at VTT back in 2013-2014 when the business idea of Paptic got started. All of us had already then seen too many signs from the market that plastic is becoming a problem for this planet. Especially in the packaging space. We started developing the concept that could we find a solution from within the VTT pool of data and expertise to address the problem differently.
We are probably the only startup in the World which is building a paper machine. Paper is a good recyclable and biodegradable material but still, paper, unfortunately, can not solve all pollution challenges of this planet. The whole idea of Paptic is that you change an entire perception of paper and change the fundamentals of how the paper is produced. Therefore Paptic is rather a new material category than improved paper. It is paper-textile.
We are building on massive innovation gap within the paper and packaging industry. The industry has not changed much over the years needs a radical innovation. Due to the fact that the graphical papers consumption is still declining, there is a need for paper companies to find new business opportunities. So, as a part of our circular economy approach, we are repurposing the way on how the paper machines are used and how we can turn old existing industrial capacity into a new use. Hence, we are not inventing everything from scratch. It is the industry ecosystem-wide innovation we are pulling together.
These days the public attention is dragged towards the global oceans which are filled with plastic. Technically, plastic is a pretty efficient choice. The only issue is that while here the waste management works properly, in the less recycling states globally only 9% of plastic waste is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and nature. At the same time, on average close to 60% of all paper waste globally is recycled. The whole idea is that paper recycling is something people know how to do globally, and we are utilizing that opportunity as our advantage. That is why we are pushing to replace plastic with paper consumption. And paper is simply biodegradable. Hence, if after all paper ends up in nature, it will degrade. There is always a problem that some material will escape from the system. Paper is the only material that is at the same time efficiently recyclable and biodegradable. That is why even at such events at Slush, there is a need for the guidelines on how the rubbish have to recycled and where it has to go.
We are starting from the premium market niches and grow into larger and larger volumes through product and production efficiency development. Major brands just cannot manage to get that luxurious touch and feel from the current paper on the market yet. The whole unpacking process is an experience for the premium products. Today we cannot yet challenge oil-based plastics in head to head in the competition, as it is such a cheap material you will not succeed in scale. But our mission is to also challenge oil-based plastics directly, it is our one million ton vision.
The original story is replacing plastic with the next generation of paper and taking the paper to the next performance level. Hence, there is a design fault in the paper. It is very strong for linear load but it is extremely fragile for the tear. Hence, if we want to replace plastic with paper, we also need to redesign how paper performs. That is why we are leading Paptic in the direction that paper textile. So, that it will have more durability, more foldability, and more water resistance.
Currently, we are tech and mission-driven. We need to get the product right. There is a lot of good will on the market for our mission. It is awesome to tell our story, as all partners want to join the good cause.
From the entrepreneurship point of view, it is extremely hard to work in a volume market without having the capacity to deliver. Already in 2016, we had the first prototype of heat sealable different types of soft-touch paper. The big mission is to replace plastic with paper. Unfortunately, in this field of disruptive process technology, you cannot scale up flexibly. You need to take the big leap. Now we are ready. In the next 4 years, the goal is to have the world’s first industrial-scale demonstration facility with capacity for EUR100 million turnover. We are aiming to build a billion euro business.
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LinkedIn: Paptic Ltd