Plastics Recycling Ambassador of the Year 2020

Julen is the founder and CEO of The Gravity Wave – a company which retrieves the plastics from the Mediterranean Sea and transforms it into smartphones covers and 3D filament. The company aims to take 8 tons of plastic out of the sea, per year.

Julen realized the problem of plastic littering and decided to make a change. Together with a fishing company from Athens, Enaleia, which collects the plastic debris and Crazy & Things, who transform the marine litter into 3D filament and any kind of products made 100% of recycled material, The Gravity Wave was created.

Julen’s mission is clear: to remove all the plastic in the Mediterranean Sea, stop producing new materials and transform all the waste polluting the planet to generate profit while contributing to development, research and ethical corporations. He sees The Gravity Wave as a tool to make local change happen. And once this is achieved, he aims to replicate the business model globally.

The Gravity Wave is further collaborating with one of the biggest recycling plants in Spain, who clean, select and transform the waste sent from Greece into material which is used for manufacturing of 3D filament and smartphone cases, as well as a local a local company that has patented a machine to turn the plastic that cannot be recycled anymore into energy with a 0 emissions process.

Flor holds a Masters in Sciences Biology with a major in Ecology and Microbiology, and she recently obtained a diploma in Sustainability Business Management at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Since September 2017 she is working as a Sustainability Project Manager, being responsible for the implementation of ClearIntent with the European marketing team.

Flor engages with the global sustainability team to share best practices as well as strengthens sustainability awareness via internal and external training.

Flor is also the leader of the External Waste Goal and in 2019 she started the implementation of ecodesign within Avery Dennison. The purpose of the project is to change the mentality of how new products are designed by combining innovation for the development of future portfolios with the guidelines for recycling.

At the same time, she is actively working together with several organizations - such as CEFLEX, PETCORE or Plastics Recyclers Europe - to investigate the possibility of how PSL labels can enable recycling and understand the needs of the markets.

Last year, she led a deep dive search on different recycling streams around Europe to understand the process and to know better the needs of each recycler in terms of packaging labeling, being able to transform those needs into our new innovation ecodesign process.

Carlos has more than 30 years of professional experience in the waste & environment sector, and more specifically in the field of plastic packaging waste. His expertise includes company management and strategy, eco- design, selective collection, sorting and recycling. He is directly involved in the development of new recycling solutions for plastic waste in France, including chemical recycling. He also has extensive international experience in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia in the field of plastic waste management, and EPR schemes.

During his professional career, Carlos held different positions in research institutes, consultancy companies, waste management companies, and companies in charge of the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme. Carlos joined CITEO in 2007 as technical director, covering all packaging materials: plastic, glass, cardboard, steel and aluminum. During this time, he was in charge of the implementation of the French program for extended household plastic packaging recycling.

Since 2017, his activity as scientific director is now focusing on research, development and projects identification, in order to promote innovation and create new sustainable solutions for the recycling of plastic packaging waste in France and in Europe. In 2019, he organized the International Forum Plastic Solutions in Paris which aimed to promote international depolymerization and dissolution projects. The next Forum, to be held in May 2020 will cover pyrolysis and gasification techniques.

Since 1996, An is part of Plarebel, a non-profit organisation that is the reference in Belgium for information, advice and guidance on all aspects of circular plastics, including circular design and effective recycling. In this role, she has been working as a consultant for Fost Plus concerning collection, sorting and recycling of household plastic packaging waste in Belgium. She contributed to the development and optimisation of the extended collection to all household plastic packaging types.

In 2018 she launched a new future trajectory for Plarebel to expand their product portfolio beyond the scope of household plastic packaging waste. An has the ambition to set society down the path towards a more circular approach for all plastics.

She is also an active member of EPRO, the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations, where she is leading the Working Group on Household Packaging Recycling. As leader of this EPRO Working Group, An has played an important role in the creation of the European PET Bottle Platform, a voluntary initiative grouping technical experts in the field of PET design and recycling for the evaluation of new technologies. At the beginning of this year, she took on the challenge as Technical Program Manager of the HolyGrail 2.0 project. Her role is to advise on the best way forward to turn a concept for intelligent sorting through using digital watermarks into a new industry standard for smarter recycling. An is also active in other industry associations and initiatives, and is constantly looking for new opportunities to respond to the many challenges in the transition towards a circular economy for all plastics.

Kim is a tenured professor at Ghent University, in the domain of Circular Plastics. She is a polymer processing engineer by education and has dedicated her multidisciplinary research group to the improved mechanical recycling of thermoplastics.

Her main research line involves the development of predictive quality models for contaminated recycled plastics, giving science-based insights into how recycled polymer quality will be affected by the presence of undesired other polymers, as well as smaller contaminants like inks or barrier layers. The model is meant to provide valuable insights for Design for Recyclability and to the fine-tuning of sorting and pretreatement processes.

Kim is the academic lead of the Plastics to Resource pipeline within the CAPTURE resource recovery platform, facilitating scientific value-chain cooperation on the topic of Circular Plastics between 10 professors, coming from polymer chemistry, food packaging, product design, life cycle analysis, techno-economical analysis, waste management, sorting/pretreatment, mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

In 2019, Kim gained broad visibility with her TEDx talk ‘Plastics Rehab’, in which she provides to the consumer audience fact-based insight on why plastics are not ‘the enemy’ to sustainability. A follow-up short movie called ‘What does science say about plastics,’ is currently in preparation, as a science-based counterweight to the public debate on plastics.

In 2019, her team provided a value-chain overview of plastics recycling in ‘Mechanical Recycling of Plastics for Dummies’. On popular demand, the team is currently preparing an overview on REACH and Food Contact regulation for PCR content, likewise to be made freely available.