ECO-oh!, the recycling company with the famous pink bags, intends to double its capacity by 2020. By doing so, the company is planning ahead following the recent EU decision to recycle 55% of household plastic waste by 2025. To get on the right track towards these ambitious growth objectives, ECO-oh!’s owner, Koen Verhaert, has enlisted Lorenzo Delorenzi as the company’s new CEO.
New CEO Lorenzo Delorenzi believes in the circular power of plastics
With its headquarters in Houthalen, ECO-oh! is the only company in Belgium that recycles mixed household plastics such as butter tubs, yoghurt pots, plastic bags, toys etc. into new raw materials and products. ECO-oh! already processes waste plastics from over two million people in Flanders — one in three of the region’s population. The products it manufactures range from garden edging to street furniture and designer benches.
ECO-oh! is planning ahead to meet the EU’s ambitious new objectives, which will make it compulsory to recycle 55% of plastic waste by 2025 — and 65% by 2035. This way, Europe hopes to reduce the mountains of waste we produce and tackle the problems our plastics are causing in the oceans. As part of this effort, the volumes of waste collected will increase fivefold in the short term. To anticipate this increase, ECO-oh! intends to build extra capacity.
To guide this growth along the right track, ECO-oh! has enlisted the help of 55-year old Lorenzo Delorenzi — a new CEO who is more than familiar with the world of plastics. With decades of experience at companies in the packaging and petrochemical sectors, the Belgian-Italian certainly has the right background to realise ECO-oh!'s ambitious growth objectives.
According to Delorenzi, the opportunities for growth available to ECO-oh! are enormous, thanks to the company’s important role in society.
“As a company, we bear great social responsibility, because we’re creating a future where recycling plastics will be just as normal as recycling paper and glass is today. We're doing so through continuous innovation in sorting, recycling and production technologies. As part of this, ECO-oh! is consciously choosing to forge partnerships within both the recycling and petrochemical sectors”, Delorenzi explains.
The ambition: double capacity by 2020
The brand-new CEO has his work cut out: double the company’s capacity in the next three years, and move its focus towards innovation. According to Delorenzi, plastics — the ultimate throwaway product, until recently — have the potential to fit perfectly in a circular economy.
“We hope to inspire other companies by demonstrating there really is a solution for processing recycled household plastic waste in a sustainable way in order to reduce the overall amount of waste we produce. To do so, we will continue our commitment to the commercialisation of ECO-oh!’s product range, so that consumers can make a conscious choice to buy recycled products. As part of this, continuous innovation and new applications remain crucial to ensure we can keep processing the growing volumes of sorted plastic waste within a Belgian manufacturing landscape”, Delorenzi says.
By installing a new CEO, Koen Verhaert, ECO-oh!’s owner, intends to create the space he needs to focus on strategy and innovation. This will enable him to concentrate on his relationships with leading Belgian technology businesses, artists and designers to collaborate on developing fully-fledged upcycling solutions that offer added value through sustainability, quality and outstanding design.
“Through ‘out-of-the-box’ partnerships, we hope create innovative products that will inspire the public to keep recycling with due care. This is why we are innovating beyond the boundaries of our own sector, together with businesses who share our goal”, Verhaert explains.
Imports and exports expected to double
Last year, ECO-oh! achieved a turnover of EUR 10 million. Delorenzi's ambition is to double that turnover by 2020. To do so, the new CEO and his team will shift their focus even further towards foreign markets. And with good reason: the export figures for ECO-oh!’s garden edging range rose by over 50% in the past year. France has become a second home market, and in 2018, the company intends to roll-out its products in other neighbouring countries, including Germany. As a consequence, ECO-oh! expects its exports to double.
No plastics to China
Following reports in the media in the past few weeks, ECO-oh! is setting out to reassure the public. All plastics collected by the company in its pink or green bags or via household waste recycling centres are 100% recycled, with 97% being turned into new raw materials. Not a single item from this waste flow is exported to China.
ECO-oh! also stresses that Belgium does not currently face a capacity problem: the company is perfectly able to process all household plastic waste collected, as long as manufacturers continue to take their share of the responsibility and pay a fair price for recycling.
- ECO-oh! was founded in 1989 by Kempense Steenkoolmijnen, OVAM, LVM and Eurobox under the name ‘Ekol’. The current owners acquired the company in 2010.
- ECO-oh! has branches in Houthalen-Helchteren and Laakdal.
- The company employs 45 people.
- 7.5 million pink bags are processed annually — an average of 37,500 each day.
- At the moment, 70% of the company’s product range is destined for the domestic market.
- Age: 55
- Studied Applied Economics at KU Leuven and graduated cum laude.
- Born in Italy but raised in Belgium, as his father worked for the European Commission.
- Speaks six languages.
- Lived in Geneva for eight years and worked in Vienna for three.
- Managed packaging group Van Genechten Packaging for almost six years.
- Spent almost seven years working for Borealis, an Austrian chemical group and a major player in polyolefins — plastics used in tubes, bottles, foil and other objects.
- Spent twelve years working for the plastics division of Tetra Pak, a Swedish multinational and market leader in food industry packaging.
- Stefan Wauters - ECO-oh! communications officer: +32 (0)498 59 86 96
- Safia Yachou - Bepublic: +32 (0)498 04 00 41