Leoplast’s managers were required a lot of courage to let their company take a completely new course. Nonetheless, their company, based in the area of Turin, dealing in plastic injection and specialized in cosmetic packaging, entered into the era of bioplastics in 2004.
A historic shift
“Courage, I don’t know, he explains, but will, surely! Anyway we had no other choice. There was a chance that our traditional markets slipped to Asia. Our costs were becoming prohibitive. It was absolutely necessary to find new ways and most of all pull out one day, of resins derived from fossil fuels, petrochemical plastic”.
Leoplast’s good fortune was to be situated at the heart of the most active area in Italy (Piedmont), in terms of organic farming and environmental issues. There’s even a polytechnic centre in Turin specialized in the study and processing of agro-plastics with whom Leoplast collaborates.
Five years later, the Italian firm converts about 12% of its products in vegetal plastics and 10% in regenerated plastic. “These figures may seem meaningless, but in fact it’s extremely encouraging, says Graziano Reggiani. Simply because only the smaller players in the industry made the shift first. Larger players are starting to wake-up.” And it’s quite a concern ... seeing the big ones waking-up.
Because investments involved require necessarily larger markets than the small or medium quantities only ordered by the more modest players in the market. Also a good way to make more competitive a technology and products whose costs may still seem prohibitive (+ 30% to 40% on average).
A full range for make-up
In five years, the ground covered, technically, by the Italian company was considerable. Because transforming plastics from plants is far from simple. The choice of Leoplast focused essentially on 100% vegetal ingredients derived agro-materials. The cycle times are slower, production waste is more important, “materials” are subject to “shrinkage” after injection, problems related to static electricity, mastering transformation temperatures etc.. Not to mention the narrowness of the suppliers market for raw material that still comes down to two or three major players.
“Today we have our business well under control”, explains says Graziano Reggiani. Since 2007, the company markets a full line of make-up (lipstick tubes, compact, eye shadow) which is 100% Ingeo based (polilactic acid). Leoplast, even launched recently a mascara with a bioplastic brush and stem and a glass vial. To note also, in joint venture with Socoplas, another Italian plastic bottle convertor, the marketing of a bottle with its closure (made by Leoplast) in PLA and cellulose acetate.
Confident in the future? “More than ever, insists Graziano Reggiani. We really feel that the market is starting to react. And we have a comfortable lead”.