AMSTERDAM – In about 1.5 years consumers can opt for a sustainable worktop when putting together a kitchen. That’s the aim of the Dutch company Sustonable. The composite stone worktop is partly manufactured from recycled plastic bottles.
The idea originated about 15 years ago at Shell, where two of the three founders, Erik Schoneveld and Aad Van Helden, worked at the time. Plastic consists mainly of oil and the oil giant wondered how they could make a contribution to the waste problem. The idea was to use recycled PET in building material. The company invested substantially in this.
“After Shell, Erik started working in the composite stone industry in Spain”, according to co-founder Laurens Van Graafeiland. “At that company, composite stone was manufactured with a polluting chemical binder. Erik reflected on his time with Shell and reckoned it should be possible to replace the binder by recycled PET.”
Schoneveld, who is a chemist, just like Van Helden, started performing tests with it. His Spanish employer, however, had no interest in the composition. Schoneveld then decided to start on his own. He asked Van Helden and Van Graafeiland to join him. “Erik and I know each other from our college days when we both were passionate rowers”, Van Graafeiland explains. “I have studied Engineering Management, and just like Erik, I always had the ambition to set up a great company.”
Van Helden and Schoneveld are mainly concerned with the development of the product. “It is still not 100% complete. In order to use the material for kitchen worktops, the scratch resistance and finish should be even better “, according to Van Graafeiland. “However, it can already be applied as side panels in bathrooms for instance.”
Apart from the commercial and financial side, Van Graafeiland is also concerned with exploring the markets which the material is suitable for. “In addition to the composition, also the production of the material is unique. “We engage in a continuous process whereby an infinitive flow of long panels rolls from the machines. As we don’t work with moulds, we produce much less waste. Moreover, the panels are thinner than with comparable composite stone.” Patent is pending for both the product and the process technology.
The samples and test panels are currently made in Switzerland. In a factory that is built by the spin-off which arose from the sustainable building material project by Shell. The founders, however, want to build a new factory in Spain. “Early 2018 we will start a financing round.” The location is not yet known, but it will be somewhere in the Valencia province. “Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) is one of our largest investors. Also in terms of logistics, it’s a good location.”
Together with worktop manufacturer Dekker Zevenhuizen, being the other large investor, Sustonable now focuses on the worktop market. “We can deliver the material in all colours, we try to imitate, for example natural marble as best as possible.”
Van Graafeiland expects that his product can be put on the market more cheaply than comparable panels made of composite stone. “Our material is light and strong and therefore easier to process, which will eventually reflect in the price for the consumer.”