Enjoying the freedom of sailing and forgetting everyday worries – it could all be so great. If only the naked truth would not catch you even on the high seas: When Cirplus founder Christian Schiller set sail off the coast of Colombia, he was shocked: instead of enjoying the fresh breeze of a crystal-clear ocean, he found himself in an unappetizing carpet of plastic waste. That was exactly the moment when he realized that he would dedicate his future to the fight against the plastic flood.

Arriving home, the Berliner began to deal with the topic “Circular Economy”. And Schiller was certain:

What has value is not thrown away.”

©cirplus/AdobeStock

EASIER AND MORE EFFICIENT TRADING WITH RECYCLED MATERIALS

Half a year after the experience in Colombia, the idea for Cirplus was finally born – a digital trading platform for old plastics. Together with the blockchain expert Volkan Bilici, who also has experience in the plastics industry, Schiller founded the start-up Cirplus at the end of 2018. In April 2019, their sustainable digital platform went online. The aim is to make trading in recycled plastics as efficient and simple as possible. On the platform, plastics processors and recycling companies can network directly and thus close the loop between the production, recycling and reuse of plastics. All forms of recycled plastic are traded – from bale goods to regranulate or recyclate. By directly comparing offers, buyers save time and money, while sellers can open up new sales markets both at home and abroad. Cirplus is currently aimed at interested parties from all over Europe. In addition, the platform enables suppliers to adjust prices, quantities and qualities of their materials precisely to demand.

Founder Christian Schiller & Volkan Birici ©cirplus

THANKS TO “VERPACKG”: OLD PLASTIC BECOMES A BUSINESS MODEL

The founders are encouraged in their plans by, among other things, the new packaging law VerpackG, which has been in force since 1 January 2019. In addition to the already familiar principle of product responsibility, new product types have now also been included. Furthermore, those responsible will be held to account more. This is because the regulation requires a recycling rate of 58.5 percent for plastics from packaging waste, instead of the previous 36 percent. From 2021, even 63 percent are to be recycled. This makes it necessary to rethink and change the supply chain. Additionally, the law should automatically turn the use of old plastics into a lucrative and booming market.

DIGITIZATION OF THE INDUSTRY STILL IN ITS BEGINNING STAGE

And obviously it seems to work: Even before the platform was launched, 43 companies, including industry giants, had already been placed on the Cirplus waiting list. In the meantime, the first transactions have even been brokered.

…In the future we will digitally map the entire transaction: from searching and matching, through logistics and payment processing, intelligent price and quantity analysis to the integration of blockchain applications,” explains Schiller. “This is how we achieve the overriding goal of closing product cycles 100%.”

This is precisely where software developer and blockchain expert Bilici comes in: Thanks to his expertise and a sophisticated algorithm, the matching processes for buyers and sellers are automated and more efficient on Cirplus. A precision landing, considering that the digitalization of this industry is still in its infancy.

Schiller mentions – even though sourcing hasn’t yet been done via cirplus – two ideal examples: The frog bottles from Werner & Mertz and the water bottles from Vöslauer are both 100% rPET, i.e. recycled PET.

THE VISION: REDUCTION OF PLASTIC WASTE TO ZERO

By the way, Schiller and Bilici got to know each other during the Accelerator Program of Entrepreneur First. Schiller looks back on start-up experience with the French BlaBlaCar. He was the first employee to set up the German market. Today, the company is the world’s largest digital ride sharing platform. He answers the question of what attracts him about start-ups as follows:

I am driven by the desire to design. In concrete terms: tackling a sustainability issue with entrepreneurial means. The more recycled plastics we can convey, the better for the environment, because the use of one ton of recycled plastic saves 85% CO2 emissions compared with the use of one ton of new plastic.”

Bilici is an experienced software developer. Among others, he worked for Brickblock, Cubits and the Frontier Car Group. Bilici also has excellent connections to Turkey, one of the world’s largest markets for plastics processing.

Cirplus’s first goal is to revolutionise the European recycling market. But the vision of the founders is much more ambitious:

In the long term, they want to reduce the vast quantities of plastic waste to zero!