Bioplastic Success for Rijeka Family Company

Lauren Simmonds

With its fourteen employees, Mi-Plast is a partner in EU research projects in the development and production of bioplastic solutions.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 2nd of April, 2018, despite not being the biggest player on the Croatian plastic recycling scene, Rijeka’s Mi-Plast is a serious company making even more serious moves.

Since the Republic of Croatia has been a full member of the European Union for five years now, Mi-Plast has decided to use all the numerous benefits of this fact and has included a number of research projects within the Horizon 2020 and other innovation programs for the 2014-2020 budget period, which has a budget of 80 billion euro for researchers and innovative companies. The Rijeka company, with its partners from across the EU, has entered into nine projects that have received 80 million euro from the European Union, of which 7% has gone to to Mi-Plast, reaching a total amount of slightly less than 6 million euro.

Filip Miketa, director of research and development in the family company originally founded by his father forty years ago, explained that the company found its refuge and new headquarters in Rijeka due to war events back in 1993, and then EU projects came up rather accidentally. “Our EU funded consultant, otherwise a school friend, told me that a serious Spanish corporation was looking for partners in Eastern Europe for an EU-funded bioplast project. Of course, like the whole family, I was skeptical that someone would just give money for research. We went for it, and the first two times, we were unsuccessful, and after that it all began.”

Their first serious project was with the Italian corporation Novamont, which is the leading Italian and world player in the development and production of materials and biochemicals through the unification of chemistry, the environment and agriculture, and which has remained a key partner to this very day.

”We were in Brussels recently at a meeting of partner companies in a research project where everyone is present at the first meeting. And before us, there was a company with 140,000 employees and billions of euro in revenue and profits. Then we came and said we had fourteen employees. The immediate question from the partner was, you mean 14,000? No, just fourteen. Ah, well, then you’re really serious,” Miketa recalls.

“When we talk to colleagues in plastic and related industries about biopolymer, bioplastics and biotechnology, I get the impression that we’re talking about cosmic technology – they just look at us in wonder and wonder why we’re bothering, why we think there’s something to be had there. I’ve got to admit though, that in the last five years, the situation has changed a lot and that bio-economics is now the ”in thing” and because of that people have started to take us seriously. They take us seriously on an institutional level as well, we work with and create programs on the EU FP 9 level and others, where we work in expert groups at both a European and a national level,”

Mi-Plast is currently in the phase of a significant investment of about 1.5 million euro in a new facility, from EU funds. Their range will be wide and varied, and will all be entirely based on environmentally friendly bioplastics.

Currently, they have a processing capacity of about 3000 tons of plastic per year, and after the installation of new lines, that number will reach 8000 tons. But in addition to the quantum, much more is expected in the field of quality and added value of products based on the technologies of creating a new bioplastics that will occur for the first time in Croatia and this part of Europe. Currently, they have just fourteen employees, and by the end of this year they will employ five additional workers, followed by a further ten in 2019. The major goal is to have a bio-waste project in Croatia that would process organic waste and part of the biomass would be used for energy production and heat and plant operation.

”What we’re talking about is a large investment of between 50 and 100 million euro, and for now, all we’ve got is the idea. The biggest problem is spatial plans in Croatia and permits for waste management facilities, but we’re not giving up,” assured Miketa.

Their latest Horizon 2020 project is PULPACKTION, which should develop cellulose-based solutions for food and electronic packaging systems, reducing the general dependence on plastics on the basis of non-renewable fossil fuels, this aims to be achieved by the clever use of a combination of improved cellulose pulp and polymer on a biobase.

By using improved wet cast cellulose as the main packaging material, the final packaging weight will be reduced and its sustainability increased. This packaging solution will help reduce waste by replacing plastics with an environmentally-friendly biobased solution that is similar to the standard features already in place.

The project has been running since October the 1st, 2016, and will continue until September the 30th, 2020, it has twelve participants from different countries, and is being coordinated in Sweden. The total value of the project is 11.2 million euro, and the EU has co-financed it in the significant amount of 8.3 million euro.


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