“We provide a safe environment that enables us to focus our energy on our daily operations”

PETplanet Insider talked to Alessandra Funcia, Head of Marketing and Sales at Sukano

by Heike Fischer

PETplanet: In this series of interviews, the first mandatory question we ask is: Where are you right now? From where are you answering us?

A. Funcia: I am answering from our Sukano headquarter office in Switzerland (with a view to the lake and another to the Alps).

PETplanet: Switzerland, the headquarters of Sukano, is now also affected by a second wave of the coronavirus. In mid-October, the Swiss Federal Council decided on more stringent measures for the cantons. Despite the restrictions, it should be possible to continue economic and social life. How are you experiencing the situation at Sukano?

A. Funcia: These are strange times for all of us. The “enemy” is around the corner and yet we can’t see it. The current exceptional situation regarding the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) demands action and solidarity all over the world. The safety of our employees, customers, and society at large is of the highest priority to Sukano. The crisis management action plan drawn up by Sukano Management, which is in place since earlier this year, concentrates on the maintenance of operational activities (Business Continuity Management). It also enables certain employees to work from home or to provide a single office to each employee when necessary, in addition to the use of masks and the disinfection of all shared areas in the company. This allows us to both guarantee our ability to fulfil our customer´s needs reliably and with the quality our customers are experienced with Sukano, under the safety and preventive requirements the situation demands, while still ensuring the health and wellbeing of our employees. Our team spirit attitude and practices have been excellent and we are experiencing the highest level of mutual collaboration and special dedication and attention from our own colleagues, as well as from our partners! We are all one and we are all in the same boat. One infected person could bring the disease to the company, to our collaborators and to our families. At Sukano, our campaign has never been so in line with our needs and actions: #wecare, #wetakeactions, #wearepartofthesolution.

PETplanet: What did Sukano learn from the pandemic? What are the consequences for production, customer service and working methods?

A. Funcia: We provide a safe environment that enables us to focus our energy on our daily operations. In close consultation with the public health authorities, we take a 4 pillar approach to ensure our safety at work. The cornerstones of our approach are:

Personnel Management: minimum number of people in face-to-face meetings when digital communications can be applied

Engineering controls: ensuring continuous, and periodically intensifying, clean environments through facilities management

Administrative controls: managing and controlling the use of offices and common zones

Personal protective equipment made fully available

Additionally, we further intensified the synchronisation of our daily operations by splitting our company into four independent teams. One of these four groups works from their home office. This ensures that no one in one group has physical contact with anyone from another in our daily activities. So in case of an infection, the home office team can come back to the production site and take over for the team that would need to go into quarantine, and operations will continue.

During an unprecedent crisis like this, there are big threats, but there are also opportunities. Through this tragedy, we have been given an enormous opportunity to reimagine what this world and society can be, and it will be on our hands to take this opportunity and build an even better future. We stringently protect ourselves to be able to look into the opportunities from a safe atmosphere and still work on relevant and up-to-date needs through innovative technologies, such as the recently launched antiviral masterbatches. Our R&D team identified this at an early stage, and then tested it in a specialised microbiological lab, where the performance of our products against Feline Coronavirus in PET and PA was positive.

PETplanet: In which area of masterbatch or additive development do you see the future? Which areas are worth special attention? Are there any planned projects at Sukano?

Alessandra Funcia, Head of Marketing and Sales at Sukano

A. Funcia: At Sukano we work mainly in partnership with customers, developing dedicated product performance according to their specific needs. We certainly see a bright future, and we dedicate a lot of attention and work on products that support alternative ends of life, such as mechanical recycling and organic recycling (certified compostable), depending on what the end application of the final article and geographical location requires. Through masterbatch formulation, we design products that our partners can use to go monomaterial in PET, for instance our transparent impact modifier for cold application, which enable replacement of GAG films by fully recyclable PET designed trays, or our compostable certified PLA and PBS masterbatches portfolio for food packaging applications.

In addition and aligned to the EU Green Deal strategy and recovery plan, we also have NIR detectable and certified blacks, colours and white masterbatches for bottle-to-bottle closed loop applications in PET dairy food. One of our key and most challenging projects is working in partnership with leading companies such as Gneuss and Illig, along with the support of Veolia, to supply the recycled PET flakes from the German yellow bags, to prove and manufacture thermostable CPET trays from recycled PET non-clear bottles. This is our vision: a world with dedicated economically viable PET waste streams to enable PET plastic parts to circulate, keeping them in the economy and out of the environment.

PETplanet: Fortunately, when producing masterbatches and additives today, we also automatically think of recycling. You are very familiar with the topic of recycling. You lead the working group recycling of opaque and functional PET bottles at Petcore Europe. What are your tasks there and what results have you achieved in this working group?

A. Funcia: Sukano is an active member of Petcore and I am the company´s representative at the association. Earlier this year I was kindly invited to take the role of Chairwoman of the Opaque and Functional PET bottles as Gian de Belder from P&G was assigned to another role.

As a representative of the PET value chain players, PETCore focuses on ensuring that all PET article is responsibly placed in the EU market, so once it is collected, it can also be effectively recycled and returned into the economy or remain in the economy as long as possible. The overarching goals of our actions at Petcore are that all PET products meet European Regulations, meaning essential requirements to be fully recyclable. Specifically, to our opaque and functional bottles working group we have: MISSION- Identify, foster, communicate and promote outlets/end applications for non clear (opaques), sleeved and functional rPET bottles. And our Vision is “All opaque and functional bottles (and trays) are recyclable, collected and recycled”.

We were already able to identify and quantify the amount of white opaque PET bottles available today in the market, per key EU member states, and we are now focusing via four task forces activities within the WG, in viabilising the effective recycling of white PET opaque containers using different business models, according to the infrastructure of each country identified as major consumers of white PET opaque.

PETplanet: One last question for you: Where do you see the plastics processing industry in 10 years? – Besides Covid-19, what about the EU Plastic Strategy, the recycling industry and the trend towards a sustainable lifestyle?

A. Funcia: At Sukano #wearepartofthesolution, all our action plans and strategic activities boil down into the same basket. We walk the talk, therefore we are confident that the world can and will co-exist sustainably with plastics. Not all plastics, that is clear. Not all formats and designs we live with nowadays. We believe in science!

A rational and scientific based approach for a selection of the material and product design/structure will lead us positively into the direction of a waste-free and circular material environment where the society can benefit responsibly and jointly with the industry and government.

PETplanet: Thank you very much!

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