Economic growth that’s solely reliant on the consumption and exploitation of limited natural resources is unsustainable in the long run, whether viewed from an economic, social or ecological perspective. That’s why the future is the circular economy, which implies the reuse and recycling of resources
The leaders of the local application of the circular economy are the Umka Cardboard Factory, KappaStar Recycling and packaging waste management operator Ekostar Pak, which all represent shining examples of how this economy of the future looks. Is is for this reason that we spoke with the directors of these three companies – Miloš Ljušić, Marko Janković and Bojana Perić.
The circular economy is a regenerative industrial economy that has a different system of production and consumption in terms of designing and using resources and relations towards the generating of waste. This is a relatively new domain and, considering how long the Umka Cardboard Factory has been basing its production on recycling, we can say that you are pioneers of this concept in Serbia. What is your secret?
“We are proud of the way we do business, which defines us as a company that is a friend of the environment. As the basic raw material for the production of our final product – cardboard packaging – we use waste paper and cardboard that’s left behind after a product completes its life cycle,” explains Miloš Ljušić, director of the Umka Cardboard Factory.
Umka is the largest recycler of waste packaging paper or cardboard in Serbia, with a total annual capacity of 130,000 tonnes. This company has invested more than 60 million euros over the past 17 years, increasing its capacity, improving product quality and working to meet the industry’s highest standards. “The cardboard that’s produced by Umka has wide applications of use in the production of packaging for food, pharmaceuticals, the automotive industry and many others. Apart from Serbia, our products appear on more than 30 European markets, including the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Poland, Czechia, Russia, Hungary, Romania and Turkey,” notes Ljušić.
The European Union has accelerated the development of its public policies in the field of the circular economy since 2014, while it has set very ambitious goals for the next five years within the scope of the so-called Green Agreement and Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. How does the development of regulations related to the circular economy impact on your operations?
“Cardboard is the material of the future. It isn’t losing popularity and the initiative to reduce the use of plastic, as defined by the objectives of the European Union, creates great opportunities for the development of the paper industry. We believe that it is only recycled cardboard, as a packaging material, that can satisfy the requirements of sustainable development and the circular economy, both at this time and in the long run,” concludes Ljušić.
The extended responsibility that forms the basis of the circular economy, coupled with investments in local development, are crucial to creating a cleaner and healthier environment
Support for the functioning of the entire system is provided by KappaStar Recycling, a company that has more than 500 employees and is an authorised operator for the collection, transport and treatment of non-hazardous waste, primarily waste paper, but also waste foil and PET packaging, packaging glass and other types of non-hazardous waste. That’s why we also spoke with Marko Janković, the director of this company. For starters, could you tell us who your clients are?
“KappaStar Recycling cooperates with generators of non-hazardous packaging waste in various areas, among which I would single out retail chains, printing houses, cardboard manufacturers, the state administration and factories and local companies that deal with the collecting of non-hazardous waste. Among the largest suppliers, I would single out the largest companies, such as Delhaize Serbia, Mercator-S, Lidl, Heineken, Swisslion, NIS, ministries, other state institutions and the City of Belgrade,” says Janković.
What is in the focus of KappaStar Recycling’s operations at the moment, and what are your plans for the period ahead?
“KappaStar Recycling became a leader of the domestic market in the collection of packaging waste within just a few years of its establishment, enjoying constant annual growth in the quantities of packaging waste procured. In 2010, the year the company was established, we collected about 75,000 tonnes, while by 2019 we’d reached a figure of 119,000 tonnes. Together with its subsidiaries in the countries of the region, KappaStar Recycling collected more than 240,000 tonnes in 2019,” explains Janković, before announcing new investments in equipment and the opening of new centres throughout Serbia.
Ekostar Pak commemorates its tenth anniversary this year. We asked company director Bojana Perić what the situation is like on the packaging waste recycling market and how Ekostar Pak responds to the various challenges.
“Ekostar Pak, as the national packaging waste management operator in the Republic of Serbia, has been contributing with its operations to fulfilling the most important principle of the 21st century – sustainable development, with the basic aim of reducing the amount of packaging waste that ends up in the natural environment, preserving natural resources and developing an optimal system for managing packaging and packaging waste. The extended responsibility that forms the basis of the circular economy, coupled with investments in local development, are crucial to creating a cleaner and healthier environment,” explains Perić.
The situation is gloomy on the global market, considering both the changes that China has imposed on the rest of the world and the situation with the COVID-19 virus. How is Ekostar Pak coping with these changes?
“I can say that it is a very important fact that we’ve managed – even during these times that are not the most favourable for the waste management market – to maintain a high percentage of success when it comes to fulfilling national goals and maintaining the trust of our customers,” says Perić, noting that Ekostar Pk is also a leader on the Serbian market in terms of number of clients (almost 900), with a 34% market share in total quantities of packaging placed on the Serbian market.
“With us, our clients most value the seriousness, dedication, care, operational capacities and, certainly most importantly, certainty in the fulfilling of national goals. By investing in improving the waste management system and connecting all key processes – from production, consumption, waste collection and recycling – we achieve that which is most important for all of us, and that’s a clean and healthy environment,” concludes Perić.