Could you please tell us more about what you are responsible for and your role at Refork?
There are several parts to my role at Refork. First, as the position Head of R&D indicates, I take care of the product formulation and ensure that Refork products have the best possible physiochemical properties, are in line with the company’s vision, and at the same time meet all legally required parameters. This includes recipe design, product testing, negotiations with suppliers, and participation in developing individual recipe components. Reducing material costs for producing the product is also related to this.
This brings us to the next part of my activity, which is ensuring that all the necessary certifications and legislative requirements are met. I must be aware of the legislation associated with the products, which is necessary because our goal is to bring products to various markets. Therefore our products must comply with the specific legislation of the given country. Not only must our products be safe for users, but we also must assert ourselves among the wide competition. That is why I take care of marketing-interesting certifications such as TÜV certification and others.
Another part of my work is communication and education regarding the material of Refork products, both within the company and with customers and potential customers. I also answer questions for interviews as I have the most profound knowledge of legislation.
The last chapter I am working on is the creation of material for patent registration for a unique production process and technology.
How did we manage to make production more efficient in 2022, and what products?
Production has been made more efficient across all Refork products thanks to the minimization of product waste and its full automation. However, to reduce the scrap rate and possibly speed up production, it was necessary to make minor adjustments to the technology and the material of the Refork company, which is precisely the company’s know-how.
You mentioned that you are responsible for registering the patent in the EU. Can you please explain why the patent is important for Refork?
The patent describes a unique procedure and technology, how up to 90% of other non-polymeric, e.g., biological fibrous components, can be implemented into polymeric materials, which are difficult to process. This is a unique approach to making expensive polymer materials cheaper without degrading them through high mechanical stress and temperature. Current technologies, such as compounding lines, only allow the implementation of up to 30 percent of wood mass into natural polymers, with the natural polymer being degraded and devalued. Thanks to our technology, know-how, and patent, we routinely mix natural polymers with wood material, where wood makes up more than 60% of the product’s mass ratio.
How does Refork material compare to competitors?
In the segment of disposable cutlery and tableware, this is currently the most advanced material appearing on the market. The Refork material consists of treated wood sawdust, a residual material from the wood processing industry, and a natural biodegradable polymer binder, which is also used in medicine. The binder we use is produced by microorganisms and is degradable in soil, home compost, and, for example, in seawater, which other materials, such as PLA, currently used for producing disposable cutlery, are not able to fulfill.
By combining wood and a unique natural binder, Refork company has created a 100% natural material, which, thanks to its physical and chemical properties, combined with degradability and the absence of microplastics in nature, has no competitor on the market. Compared to wooden and paper cutlery and straws, Refork products are much more user-friendly, mechanically more resistant, do not transfer odors or tastes to the food, and most importantly, do not dissolve in liquids. Moreover, compared to other so-called natural cutlery, Refork products are of 100% natural origin, truly decomposable even in normal nature without leaving microplastics or other toxic residues.
How do you use the waste from your production?
Refork’s production processes and recycles any products that do not meet the quality criteria set by Refork. Products that do not meet the company’s quality criteria are ground into coarse-grained crumbs. The scraps are mixed with the material intended for producing new products in a maximum ratio of 10% to the new material, and it is possible to create a new product while maintaining the highest quality criteria of Refork.
What are the plans for product development in 2023?
At the moment, we would like to introduce several new products to the market, such as a toothbrush or reusable straws and cutlery. But, of course, we are not standing still with the development of other new materials, where we are mainly playing with managing the degradability of products and modifications of both the binder components and other product components.