TeraPlast sets sustainable development as its strategic mission

Alina Oprea
TeraPlast, a Romanian manufacturer of construction materials, has pipes for external sewers made of 100% recycled PVC and uses approximately 20-30% recycled material in the production of PVC pipes, says Alexandru Stânean, CEO of TeraPlast. He talked to Green Forum about the company's key sustainability objectives and investment plans in 2023 and about the biodegradable packaging segment which is the newest in the Group's structure. 

What are TeraPlast's key sustainability objectives and investment plans in 2023?

We have set sustainable development as our strategic mission, and we take full responsibility to offer effective solutions for people and the environment. Our plans are designed for the long term, we have a methodical and comprehensive approach. First, in order to know how to act precisely, in order to have a truly positive impact, we need to know where we stand and what is our current position from which to start and according to which to establish our intermediate and final objectives.

We started by evaluating our carbon footprint on Scope 1 and 2. This year we extend to Scope 3. Next, we centralize and interpret the data, and taking into account the conclusions drawn, we refine a set of measures and strategic directions that will ensure sustainable development and responsible management of the impact we have. This entire approach has the purpose of identifying specific areas of action and moving toward them.

At the Group level, however, we have already established key sustainability directions, which aim at the recycling and integration of recovered material into products, the large-scale use of renewable energy, and the diversification of the product portfolio. In recent years, the capacity of the recycling factory has increased, and one of the priority investments of TeraPlast Group was the commissioning of the biodegradable packaging factory. Its products are OK Compost certified by TUV Austria. This year we will also invest in a new photovoltaic plant, which will increase our internal production capacity.

TeraPlast uses recycled raw materials in the production processes. How much has been used so far? What are its advantages?

We are the largest processor of polymers in the CEE, and this also means the responsibility of taking the initiative in sustainability. We recycle to remove plastic from the environment or prevent it from entering the environment. Recycling also contributes to reducing energy consumption.

However, we must look at this issue as a whole. Plastic has become an integral part of everyday life and we would not have the same quality of life without it. Plastic itself is not harmful, but its abusive use is; it's like in the warning messages: excess is harmful. Excess and irresponsibility. Where there are biodegradable solutions, we come up with those alternatives, but in our portfolio, we have products, some pipes, that have a lifespan of up to 100 years. It is a sustainable product for the simple fact that it does not require replacement for so long.

At the same time, we also developed PVC pipes that integrate recycled material. We hold an international patent for this recipe, which was designed by one of our colleagues. The product has been perfected and we also have pipes for external sewers made of 100% recycled PVC, which have the same technical qualities as those processed from virgin material. We use approximately 20%-30% recycled material in the production of PVC pipes. We have extended the use of flexible packaging as well.

We have responsible management of resources, and we contribute to the expansion of the circular economy, but our approach is that of an evolution, not a revolution. Solid progress is achieved through transitions, not through sudden leaps and radical changes. Plastic is demonized by what we can consider extremist environmentalism, which would like to ban it immediately, regardless of the consequences. We share the values of environmental protection, but we see moderate, realistic solutions as the way to go.

The company announced its intention to build a photovoltaic power plant. How much does this investment amount to and what capacity will it have? What is the timeline for this project?    

Ensuring clean energy resources is an older concern of ours, and the project we are implementing this year is a continuation of it; we already have a photovoltaic power plant with a maximum nominal power of 1,936 kWp installed direct voltage power and 1,600 kW installed alternating voltage power. This has been operational since 2020. Now we are doing an expansion, one that will result in more than tripling the existing capacities. The new plant will have a power of about 4.56 MWp and will contribute to reducing emissions by 3,200 tons of CO2e annually. The value of the investment is over RON19 million (€3.8 million), and the investment period is 12 months. This project will therefore also contribute to the reduction of the Group's carbon footprint. 

What was the company's energy consumption in 2022? How much of that energy came from renewable sources?

The direct answer to your question would require the anticipation of some information that will only be found in the sustainability report that will be made public in June. However, to have some references, I can tell you that, in 2021, at the Group level, we had a consumption of over 35 thousand MWh, of which 5% came from our own photovoltaic plant.

Increasing the share of renewable energy in total consumption is our short- and medium-term objective, and to achieve it we rely both on the operationalization of our own new plant and on external purchases from electricity suppliers from renewable sources. Beyond the recent difficulties in the energy sector, we are still on a positive trajectory in this field, and European and national policies to encourage investments in green energy capacities will lead to a significant increase in supply in the near future. 

What quantity of biodegradable sacks and bags did the company produce last year? What are the targets for this year?

The biodegradable packaging segment is the newest in the Group's structure. It is a new market for us, in which we want to become leaders, but developing at full potential requires time. Secondly, due to the organizational structure, we have, biodegradable and compostable products are included in a wider category, that of flexible packaging. In 2022, this business line had a production of over 3 thousand tons, a quantity that includes biodegradable, classic polyethene, and recycled polyethene packaging. For this year, we aim to double the turnover in this segment.

TeraPlast announced that it uses a paperless culture and that it will automate processes using artificial intelligence. Do you use UiPath bots for this? If so, in what specific processes?

We use RPA (Robotic Process Automation) services developed by UiPath for customer credit analysis, registration, and payment allocation. They are processes with obvious benefits, and we have integrated them into our current activity because they increase efficiency and reduce errors to zero. However, we use several tools to develop our paperless culture, for example, business intelligence solutions such as Qlik View that transform raw data sets into personalized knowledge, production planning systems, electronic invoicing, electronic signature, etc. Invoicing in our company has migrated almost exclusively to the electronic environment, and all these solutions mean saving paper, but also saving time, which is also precious. 

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Green Forum  |  15 July, 2024 at 11:00 AM
Green Forum  |  15 July, 2024 at 10:00 AM