On the path to achieving sustainable growth, says Jeevaraj Pillai of UFlex

UFlex is bullish about the growth of the segment and is confident about achieving its business goals without compromising on its environmental goals.

11 Oct 2023 | By Rahul Kumar

The UFlex Aseptic Recycling Plant in Malanpur

Speaking to the media about the company’s plans and growth opportunities, Jeevaraj Pillai, chief sustainability officer and president of flexible packaging business and new product development, UFlex, said, “In every country, the packaging growth rate is nearly the same as the GDP growth. We are confident packaging is also going to grow substantially. People talk about circular economy now but in the early days, we were worried about how to handle the waste we were generating in the manufacturing process. So, since the very beginning, UFlex has been focusing on recycling waste and putting it to good use. With the same concept in mind, in 2015-16, when we were putting up the aseptic plant, we just followed our philosophy that we needed to address the waste that was being generated from our manufacturing plants.”

He added, “Right now, across the globe, about 335 billion packs are sold but our contribution is far less at around 15 billion packs, which we’ll grow to 50 billion packs in three to four years’ time. Our aim is to keep growing the aseptic packaging material and along with that, make sure that no waste is left out in the environment-related conditions.”

Speaking on the specific reasons behind investing in the aseptic plant in Malanpur, an industrial town outside Gwalior, he said, “In any aseptic recycling plant, a lot of water is needed. The main reason for us going to Malanpur is the availability of water in this area. Another reason is that recycling plants cannot have a ROI if there is huge spending on land. It is very important that all the resources are deployed in getting the best machinery and equipment rather than spending on land. So, this was another consideration why we selected Malanpur.”

Pillai also spoke at length about the business model of aseptic recycling and said not every business decision taken by UFlex is taken keeping profit margins in mind and the goal is to take care of broader environmental needs as well as build sustainable business models.

“Any investment in recycling does not have the same ROI as the core business. So, if you give me Rs 100-crore, I will probably invest in my core business, which is manufacturing aseptic packaging material as it generates better ROI. Having said that, if everyone thinks in that direction, then a linear economy will be promoted, and the waste issue will not be addressed. So, what we try to do is to build a system where we have some ROI so that the recycling plant remains sustainable,” he said. 

When asked about the use of the latest technology in the production process, he said, “At UFlex, we’ve invested in an advanced Enzymatic Delamination Technology to enable aseptic packaging recycling. Enzymatic delamination utilises enzymes to break down the bonding between different layers of the packaging materials, allowing for the separation of individual layers such as paper and polyethylene/foil laminate which can be reused in the production of new products. We must recycle in a manner where the material used remains in circularity and not in the environment. Conventional recycling technologies have been prevalent for several decades. However, those technologies don’t yield the same ROI, making them unviable for sustainable development. Our objective is not just to recycle for the sake of it.”

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