Bantam Materials is a global supplier of recycled plastics. The company provides a high-quality alternative to virgin plastics.

Interview with Raffi Schieir, Director of Bantam Materials, the supplier of Prevented Ocean Plastic™.

Easy Engineering: A brief description of the company and its activities.

Raffi Schieir: To date, the recycled plastics industry has been something of a ‘Wild West’. Too often it’s deemed impossible to remain profitable while ensuring the traceability of all materials, cutting pollution to a minimum, and providing good working conditions – but that is simply not the case.

In a bid to lead the transformation of our industry, and build a transparent circular economy in which everyone is respected and valued, we launched the Prevented Ocean Plastic™  recycling programme in 2019. Through it, we make responsibly sourced recycled plastic from discarded plastic collected in at-risk coastal communities. We work with local recyclers who are committed to following the Prevented Ocean Plastic™ Standards. 

By producing socially and environmentally responsible recycled plastic, we have prevented more than one billion plastic bottles from entering the ocean and created a reliable income for thousands of bottle collectors and recycling workers in developing countries. Uniquely traceable, our plastic can be tracked from collection centre to store.

E.E: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

R.S: Starting with the sourcing of plastic waste, and ending with delivery to factories, retailers and brands, we make recycled plastic. By being involved at every stage of the supply chain, we are creating a vertically-integrated model for products that can be traced from collection centre to supermarket shelves.

We start by identifying areas in need, who don’t have an formal waste management infrastructure and are therefore at risk of ocean-bound plastic pollution. At present, we work in South-East Asia, the Mediterranean, Central America and South America – and we are looking to expand our operations into Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Social concerns are equally important to us, which is why strive to ensure fair wages for the local people that collect plastic bottles. In our collection centres, this waste is sorted and then sent to one of our production partners to be turned into rPET (recycled polyethylene tetraphyte) – the recycled version of the most common thermoplastic polymer resin that’s used in food and drink packaging.

We sell our recycled plastic to major companies around the world, ranging from outdoor clothing brand Patagonia to champagne house Moet Hennessy. In the UK, our customers include supermarkets such as Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

R.S: Our core business is about turning discarded plastic bottles into the base materials from which manufacturers, brands and retailers can make a range of consumer products, from plastic packaging through to clothes. Our partners range from budget supermarkets to luxury brands, because all types of businesses need to make more responsible choices. We’ve recently seen some incredible initiatives from partners like ecoegg, who launched their new stain remover in Prevented Ocean Plastic™ and Lidl GB who have made the bold move to incorporate it into their new sparkling water range.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

R.S: We produce flakes and pellets that can be melted and formed into new shapes.

Additionally, we can supply preformed packaging, such as bottles, although this is not a mainstay of our business. 

We supply our manufacturers with bales of discarded plastic bottles that have been responsibly collected from at risk coastlines – so they can make their own base materials to produce recycled ocean-bound plastic.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

R.S: While still in its infancy, the global recycled plastics market is estimated to be worth around 40 billion USD. Globally, there are a huge number of suppliers with varying standards and practices. 

What sets Prevented Ocean Plastic™ apart is our consistent focus on creating high-quality products that help both people and the planet. To ensure traceability, elevate sector standards, and impose a zero-tolerance on child labour, all stages of our supply chain – from recyclers to end manufacturers – are quality assured through independent third-party certification. 

With the United Nations’ new global plastic pollution treaty on the horizon, the recycled plastics market is set to boom. As the world moves to a circular economy, we want our socially and environmentally responsible model for plastic recycling to become the global standard.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

R.S: Recycled plastic hasn’t taken off as fast as it should, considering the environmental crisis we’re experiencing. According to an Ellen Macarthur Foundation report, most businesses and governments that have pledged to use reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025 are likely to miss their targets.

Against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, many retailers have been stagnating or going backwards when it comes to phasing out their use of virgin plastic. As a result, we are likely to see many scrambling to meet their targets over the next two years.

In the UK, the government introduced its Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022, but it’s clearly not working. The aim was to speed up the phase-out of the use of virgin plastic in packaging – but that’s not what’s happening. 

Instead, businesses are opting to pay the tax, and continuing to produce and use virgin plastic. The government predicted the tax would generate around £235 million within a year, but it’s on track to generate £277 million. This demonstrates that more virgin plastic is being used than projected.

It’s still cheaper and easier to pay the tax and buy 100% virgin plastic than to opt for a traceable recycled alternative. Businesses have little incentive to do the right thing. Much more needs to be done to make businesses use recycled content in their plastic packaging – and urgently. 

That said, we do expect more policy to be coming for the sector, especially given the recent UN Plastic Treaty. Responsible businesses should be getting ahead of the curve, so they aren’t scrambling when it arrives. 

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

R.S: What’s most innovative about Prevented Ocean Plastic™ products is their traceability. The key to our programme’s success has been its ability to unite everyone, at every stage of the supply chain. It means we can show how we’re cutting pollution, improving recycling rates, and creating reliable income streams for local communities. Our model is a practical demonstration of how to move to a circular economy that’s fair for everyone, and respects the natural ecosystems on which we all depend.

We are determined to lead the transformation of the recycled materials industry. As part of this, we regularly engage with policy makers and industry experts to share insights and drive progress.

Alongside the COP27 Summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, we decided to take things one step further by launching our Prevented Ocean Plastic™ Standards, which go beyond current regulatory and compliance measures. Developed in accordance with the Ethical Trading Initiative’s base code, and following the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance’s code of good practice, these industry-leading standards aim to minimise environmental impacts, ensure quality products, and improve working conditions. We are determined that the expansion of the recycled materials sector must go hand-in-hand with social elevation and environmental responsibility.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

R.S: Still feeling the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, we are not seeing fast enough progress when it comes to the mass switch from virgin to recycled plastic. But this a key year for the negotiation of the UN’s global plastic pollution treaty, and we are readying ourselves for when it comes into force. The likelihood is that brands and retailers will have to redesign packaging to get rid of all extraneous materials and excess plastic – and any remaining plastic will have to be recycled. In this context, our sector should rapidly grow. 

To ensure our socially and environmentally responsible model becomes the standard in our burgeoning sector, we have just announced our mission to build 25 high-capacity plastic collection centres on coastlines around the world that have historically lacked the recycling infrastructure needed to deal with their plastic waste by 2025. 

This is an important moment for us to create new and enhanced infrastructure that’s focused on the responsible sourcing of plastic waste. Once our centres are up and running, we expect to oversee an additional 54,000 tonnes of plastic waste collection each year. 

The reality is we’re running out of time to end our use of virgin plastic. In our environment and oceans, plastic pollution is rapidly approaching irreversible tipping points that scientists say could trigger toxic effects we can’t reverse. To pull ourselves back from the brink of this catastrophe, we must stop the flow of waste plastic into our oceans and recycle the plastic currently polluting them.