Finnish manufacturer Durat makes durable and hygienic solid surfaces with a difference. Not only are they made with recycled plastics, but Durat recycles its old products into new ones. Nothing goes to waste.
‘Circular economy’ has become a mainstream term as companies race to reduce waste and find ways to recycle their products. But, some companies have applied this kind of thinking for decades. One of them is Finnish solid surface material manufacturer Durat. The company was founded back in 1990 to develop a new material, which combines design and recycling.
“We base everything we do on life-cycle thinking,” explains Heikki Karppinen, the CEO at Durat. “We manufacture an interior surface material that is 100 per cent recyclable and contains recycled plastic waste.”
Over the years, the material, also called Durat, has been developed to be increasingly versatile. It comes in more than 300 colours and can be seamlessly joined to form custom surfaces – such as a countertop – and cast into various shapes. Today, the material is found in the bathtubs, sinks, tables and other kitchen and bathroom furniture used in restaurants, hotels, public buildings and even in private homes around the world.
The recycling cycle
Durat founders Ulla Tuominen and Kari Karppinen chose to work with a solid surface material because of its numerous benefits. It is durable, hygienic and easy to maintain. What Durat has added to the mix is the focus on sustainability. Its polyester-based material currently contains about 30 per cent recycled post-industrial plastic waste.
“Our goal is to keep increasing the percentage of recycled materials in our products,” Karppinen says. “We are also trialling the use of different types of plastic waste which otherwise would be burned or taken to a landfill.”
Durat collects the waste from industrial plants close to its manufacturing facility in Rymättylä, Finland, and turns it into sheets of raw material and ready-made and custom products. These are then used by construction companies, joiner workshops and interior design contractors.
Durat’s fondness for recycling and reusing also applies to its own products. If damaged, its material can be easily repolished to its former glory. If a customer no longer uses a product, Durat offers to take it back to be used as raw material for new products or fix it for new customers to use. This is to stop any of its products ending up in a landfill.
“In practice, this doesn’t happen every time, but eventually we want to ensure all our products come back to us one way or another,” Karppinen emphasises.
Industry in change
Durat delivers its products globally but mainly to the Nordics, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. In addition to its factory in Finland, the company has smaller-scale production in China and the US and is currently looking to open further small local manufacturing and recycling facilities in other countries.
“The idea is to have small facilities close to both the sources of industrial waste and the end- customers. This means nothing needs to be transported over long distances,” Karppinen explains. “In future, everyone could have a product manufactured locally from their local waste.”
This is all part of the sustainable thinking Durat has applied from day one. And, the company is happy to note the wider industry is following suit. In the past five years, Karppinen has seen a considerable rise in the use of ecological materials and green construction practices.
“The requirements are tightening when it comes to product life cycles, recyclability and raw materials. Green construction is the fastest growing construction sector today,” Karppinen enthuses. “Today everybody talks about the circular economy. We have been doing it before most people knew the term existed, and we will continue to play a pioneering role in it.”