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Turning the tables on plastic pollution

Turning the tables on plastic pollution
By Paul Hackett

Business Planet travels to the Belgian city of Antwerp to see how one small company is transforming plastic pollution into a designer product.

The amount of plastic waste dumped into the environment is a huge source of concern. Of the millions of tonnes that does get collected in Europe, less than a third is recycled. Belgium based firm ecoBirdy is attempting to change those dismal statistics by turning old plastic toys into safe and sustainable children's designer furniture. The company's products, which include tables, chairs, lamps and containers, are 100 percent recycled and can be easily recycled again.

“We wanted to set up a business to do good based on social and environmental values and we wanted to create a solution for the problems our world is facing today beyond aesthetics and functionality,” says ecoBirdy co-founder Joris Vanbriel.

Not only is ecoBirdy making money through an innovative solution to an environmental challenge, it is a great example of a company leading Europe’s push towards a so-called circular economy. The idea where nothing need go to waste.

The firm also has a school programme where it explains to children how plastic recycling works and why it is important.

Help for SMEs from COSME

EcoBirdy got going thanks to a grant co-funded under the EU’s COSME programme for small and medium-sized businesses.

“It opened doors to find professional partners and it meant also an acceleration of our concept, and it brought a more profound structure to the plan,” explains Vanbriel.

The COSME programme has already helped over 450,000 small businesses across Europe get the money they need to start up and grow. 60 percent of the COSME budget is devoted to two financial instruments: one for loan guarantees and one for equity.

“COSME helps companies access new markets, both in Europe and beyond. It helps them understand European legislation. In addition, there are also financial schemes when the banks don’t want to share the risk,” says Hajar Zamouri from the Enterprise Europe Network Flanders.

For more expert insight on the how the COSME programme can help SMEs, Business Planet spoke to Hajar Zamouri from the Enterprise Europe Network Flanders.

What is the COSME programme?

The European Commission aims to promote entrepreneurship and improve the business environment for SMEs to allow them to realise their full potential in today’s global economy. SMEs are the backbone of Europe’s economy, providing 85% of all new jobs.

How can COSME help entrepreneurs get the business support and finance they need to kick-start or expand there business?

The European Commission works to improve the financing environment for small businesses in Europe. EU financing programmes are generally not provided as direct funding. Aid is channeled through local, regional, or national authorities, or through financial intermediaries, such as banks and venture capital organisations, that provide funding through financial instruments.

What type of companies are eligible for support under the COSME programme?

If you are an SME or an entrepreneur looking for debt or equity finance and would like to see which financial intermediaries are working with COSME, please visit the Access to Finance portal.

Europe's strategy to cut plastic

Every year, over 25 million tonnes of plastic waste are collected in the European Union, but less than a third is recycled. Across the world, plastic waste makes up 85% of beach litter. This in turn generates microplastics in the air and water, with yet unknown impacts on health and the environment.

In an effort to cut this pollution the European Commission says it has implented measures to turn the challenge of plastic waste into an opportunity for a sustainable future.

These include the first-ever Europe-wide Plastics Strategy, the ban of single use plastics, the launch of the Circular Plastics Alliance as well as a voluntary pledges campaign.

  • In the EU, over 50 million tonnes of plastics are used every year. Over 25 million tonnes of plastic waste are collected every year, but less than a third is recycled.

  • The EU has put forward a comprehensive Plastics Strategy, to transform the way plastic products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in Europe. The EU also supports businesses that want to tackle this problem head on.

  • COSME aims at promoting entrepreneurship and improving the business environment for European SMEs including their access to finance. 60% of the COSME budget is devoted to two financial instruments: one for loan guarantees and one for equity. It has already supported over 450,000 small businesses across Europe.

  • Companies looking for finance can visit the EU website, which offers information on banks, leasing companies, venture capital funds and other financial institutions that provide finance supported by the EU in each country.

Useful links


Plastics Strategy