The UK Circular Plastics Network and KTN have been working with Gomi through the UKCPN Programme Lead, Dr. Sally Beken, with Gomi exhibiting at the UKCPN stand at Materials Research Exchange 2020.
UKCPN caught up with Gomi co-founder and Head of People & Marketing, Pawan Saunya, to discuss their current projects and relationship with both UKCPN and KTN.
Hi Pawan, could you please introduce yourself and provide some information on your role at Gomi?
My name is Pawan Saunya and I deferred a placement at University to start two environmental circular economy based companies Zero Waste Club and Gomi. Gomi turns non-recyclable flexible plastics into tech products and works with brands to turn their waste into products they can gift or sell.
At Gomi, I work on several things. As a startup, many hats need to be worn once. My main focus is on the digital side and how people interact with a brand digitally – be it through Instagram or the website. I have also been in charge of grant applications and in opening conversations about new ways to increase our production capacity.
My background is bringing sustainable products into the market. So Gomi works really well with my current skill set.
Could you tell us a bit about the background behind Gomi? What is it specifically that you do, what sectors do you operate in, and what makes you unique?
Gomi operates in creating value pools for currently not recycled thin film plastic waste. Flexible plastics such as plastic bags, bubble wrap, food wrapping, pallet wrapping etc. are currently not recycled in the UK.
Worldwide, 100 million tonnes of flexible plastics are produced every year, and 99% are not recycled. The UK either burns this plastic waste domestically, exports it as refuse-derived fuel to Europe, or in some instances sends it abroad illegally to landfills or to illegitimate recycling companies where it sits for years and degrades into soil and waterways.
We create beautiful products using flexible plastic waste and have proved that there is market interest in valuable objects made from this material. What makes Gomi unique and innovative is that no other company has yet achieved turning specifically flexible plastic waste such as LDPE, and flexible HDPE into a commercial product or service as we have. We are currently offering a service to help brands find a solution to turn their non-recyclable flexible plastic waste into products. We offer a full-service, from design, mould-making, to even producing and delivering the finished pieces.
Our innovation avoids burning the material and creates a popular aesthetic appearance in a safe and controlled manner, as well as being recyclable at the end of life. Our solution will create markets within the UK and globally for a waste feedstock that has historically been discarded, putting the UK as the world leader in thin-film recovery. We currently make goods out of thin-film plastic waste for large brands (such as Desperados, and Terracycle) as well as for SMEs. Allowing brands a tangible way to be more green.
What inspired you to set up Gomi?
I was truly disgusted at how the current economy forces us to buy things in single-use plastic without it having a reuse option. I saw the bins at home get filled up with thin film plastic waste since the rigid plastics can be recycled but thin-film plastics have no value in the recycling system.
So the inspiration came out of disgust and frustration. Trying to turn something we use only once into an object that can be used again and again without having to throwing away the precious material.
What are the challenges and opportunities facing your company and the sectors in which you operate?
We are at the forefront of turning thin film plastic waste into super complex shaped products no other companies has really done before. So the opportunity for us is to make products completely out of waste such as our portable chargers made from waste batteries and post-consumer waste thin-film plastics.
Our current challenge is industrialising our methods. We will be able to rescue so much more plastic waste if we were able to process more material faster into products. For example, through a rather straightforward introduction of 2 custom machinery we will be to increase output by 30 times.
What specific help did KTN and UKCPN give you?
KTN and UKCPN have been super helpful in telling us about opportunities in our field. For example, we applied to a SMART grant and the team has connected us with bid writers who are government funded and offer valuable advice on how to scale up our current methods. Furthermore, UKCPN had the Ecosurety fund we applied for, which we would have never found out if it wasn’t on the UKCPN website.
The events we have been invited through UKCPN has been immensely valuable since there they bring together a distillation of companies and people who are working in similar industries. And being able to connect with them and share experiences has shaped the future of our company and have reduced a lot of headaches we would have run into as we scale.
In short, KTN and UKCPN have been invaluable in getting us to where we are and most importantly giving us the vision for scaling up our systems beyond what we ever thought was possible.