How Essentra Components is driving better sustainability outcomes for itself and its customers

Posted on 24 Sep 2021 by The Manufacturer

Essentra Components is aiming to be the world’s leading, responsible, hassle-free supplier of essential industrial components. The firm is on a sustainability journey and it knows its customers are too. That’s why Essentra is supporting its customers to meet their own sustainability objectives by developing sustainable industrial component solutions for them.

Sustainability is, quite rightly, a huge topic in manufacturing right now, one that’s getting a lot of attention and driving many firm’s strategies.

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And one material that finds itself frequently in the crosshairs is plastic.

It’s used in all manner of products and, according to non-profit organisation Plastic Oceans, we are producing over 380 million tonnes of plastic every year. More concerning, is that some reports indicate that up to 50% of that is for single-use purposes.

For plastics manufacturers, the sustainability push presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

To find out more about how one industrial components manufacturer is doing its bit, The Manufacturer sat down with Richard Sederman, Strategy and M&A Director at Essentra Components, a global market leader in plastic injection moulded, vinyl dip moulded and metal components.

TM: Is sustainability a new focus for Essentra?

RS: While there is an element of sustainability being a real mission at the moment, the bottom line is being a responsible manufacturer has always been at our core. 

There’s lots of focus and news on sustainability right now, which shows no signs of fading. It’s clear that manufacturing things sustainably is going to become the norm going forward and we’re deadset on remaining relevant.

TM: How are your customers responding?

RS: I guess there are two parts to this.

There’s the innovation stage, where we work with customers to develop both products that they can use and that are more sustainable, then there are the more sustainable business models as well.

Our major win when it comes to sustainable materials has been the use of recycled content. With circularity so important to our customer base for a number of different reasons, getting recycled content into our products was huge.

In our UK plant, 40% recycled content is added to the majority of our LDPE range as standard.

Now, because we are a completely hassle-free supplier, we chose not to notify our customers about this change in the beginning. That’s because we didn’t want them to (wrongly) think that the move would impact them and they’d need to conduct an engineering change control

So far, we’ve distributed somewhere in the region of 100 million parts containing 40% recycled content and our customers haven’t felt anything. We’re now informing them that they are receiving a more sustainable product and, therefore, playing their part in helping with the greater push.

Going forward, we are looking to work on innovating new materials that are either made from more sustainable raw material inputs or have better end of life outputs i.e. their waste can be dealt with more sustainably. 

So it’s a two-pronged approach: change everything we can with our business model without adversely impacting our customers and then working with them to innovate new solutions and materials that can be used in the components supply chain.

Essentra-Components-main1. Image courtesy of Essentra Components

TM: Have you encountered any challenges with the switch to recycled content?

RS: Yes. So the main challenge is supply of good, consistent recyclates. While there is, generally, plenty, material that is available this month the same might not be available next month. As a continuous production scale manufacturer, we can’t really build that into a repeatable engineering process. So we need consistency of recyclers. 

We’d love to have all our products include recycled content, 100% if possible, but it’s not possible to get there at the moment. That’s partly because of the availability of recyclates on the market, as well as the actual purity of recycling on the market is a real challenge. 

I think we’d probably be further ahead with a greater percentage of recycled content if there was more material available to use. And that remains one of our key challenges. Nevertheless, we’ll continue to work with various suppliers in the market and different materials and solutions to find ways around it.

TM: Are there any sustainable materials you’ve tried without success?

RS: We’ve tried some of the corn starch-type products, but they weren’t really suitable for our applications. We’re making technical engineered parts and such materials tend to be quite difficult to use for that. We’ve also tried things like closed loop, wood pulp-based polymers. We actually got quite far down the road with that, but the products didn’t meet our rigorous standards in the end. 

But we’ll keep working to find the right solutions for our customers.

TM: So what’s next for Essentra Components?

RS: From a responsible material usage point of view, we want to continue to push the boundaries with ambitious goals on both the use of recycled content and the introduction of bio-based materials or biodegradable materials. Eventually, our goal is to develop a completely sustainable offer.

We’ve already set some publicly stated KPIs from a PLC point of view, including using 20% more sustainable raw materials by 2025. But the reality is we know we need to be a lot more ambitious than that and think much further ahead. 

Sustainability is one of those exciting roads that you can’t say quite where you’re getting to, but you know you need to keep working to find out how far you can go. And I think setting ambitious goals is part of that. 

So I think there’s definitely a big focus on materials, which will also lead to innovative business models as well. For example, leasing products could become a huge part of what we do. If it’s a single-use product, you lease it from us. We’ll then take the responsibility for dealing with the waste from it and ensuring it gets recycled or repurposed effectively. Then we will continue to reduce our carbon footprint through energy reduction and waste reduction — something that makes sense financially for us and environmentally for the world.

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Richard Sederman-Essentra Components. Image courtesy of Essentra Components Richard Sederman, Essentra Components

Richard is the Strategy and M&A Director at Essentra Components, a global market leader in plastic injection moulded, vinyl dip moulded and metal components.

*All images courtesy of Essentra Components