The Netherlands-based paper manufacturer, Van Houtum, has announced a €5 million investment in a joint venture for the production of ECOR, a sustainable alternative to particleboard and other materials, made from recycled waste resources ranging from paper and agricultural waste, to textiles and even beverage cups as a raw material feedstock. The ECOR green building materials emerged on the Netherlands market about a year ago, from a regional subsidiary of Noble Environmental Technologies in Venlo.

The ECOR panels that will be manufactured by the Van Houtum joint venture with Noble Environmental Technologies, will be an alternative to materials like MDF or chipboard, both in manufacturing process and chemical composition. The ECOR manufacturing process binds the cellulose fibers to each other, without the use of toxic glues and resins, using only water, heat and pressure. The panels can be used for anything to make anything including wall and ceiling tiles, furniture, print and packaging.

The recycled waste that will be used to make ECOR will be sourced from regional enterprises and institutions, including the Schiphol Airport, recycling centers and manufacturing organizations. According to Van Houtum, many companies regularly produce cellulose fiber waste and they are now looking for a circular economy solution to recycle and re-use this waste. Bas Gehlen, Managing Director of Van Houtum, said “We are working with many companies and institutions, such as the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the Schiphol Trade Park, regional water boards, and provinces like Friesland to provide a circular economy solution to convert their problematic cellulose fiber waste – think of grasses like miscanthus, old clothes and even paper drinking cups. We can convert this waste and more into the ECOR-based alternative materials and products they currently buy.”

Competition in Paper is Currently Very Fierce

Van Houtum has been family owned for eighty years and is one of the last remaining independent paper mills in the Netherlands. They produce many private label toilet paper and paper towels products, with their most popular product being Satino Black, a cradle to cradle certified bathroom tissue.

“We have two large paper manufacturing machines located at a business complex near Roermond, and had planned to replace these machines, but have refrained from doing so due to the fierce competition in the regional paper market and the uncertainty of getting a return on the millions in equipment investment required”, says Gehlen.

Gehlen (50) has served as Managing Director for the past five years, following the retirement of Henk van Houtum (63) as CEO, who is is still active as an advisor, auditor and the sole shareholder.

The Distinction of a Sustainability Profile

Bas Gehlen

Bas Gehlen

For a small paper producer – with 200 employees and €60 million in annual revenue – to distinguish itself from the international giants like Kimberly-Clark and SCA, Van Houtum has positioned itself as the leading producer of truly sustainable products, made from 100% recycled content and with the design principles of the circular economy. For decades, they have been making 100% recycled paper by removing ink, chalk, and other contaminants from recycled paper products.

With an annual production of 70,000 tons of paper, Van Houtum uses many other waste resources for nearly one third of its’ raw materials needs beyond wasted paper, which includes recycled tetrapak beverage containers.

But Gehlen realizes that, given the competition in the paper market, innovation is a necessity and sustainability is in demand. Which is what lead to their investment, with a foreign partner, to produce the ECOR panels which are made from 100% recycled cellulose fiber, 100% recyclable and free of toxic glues and VOCs. Gehlen has high expectations of the collaboration with Noble, saying “This is a unique step in the history of Van Houtum.”

The Know-How of a Strategic Partner

The joint venture partner, United States-based Noble Environmental Technologies, has invested ten years of research and commercialization in advancing the ECOR technology and manufacturing process to make superior building materials, that cost less and are made from waste. “We know all about fiber, pulp and paper” said Gehlen, “but not how to make building materials. That is the knowledge and expertise of our partner, Noble.”

Eric Logtens, CEO of Noble BeNeLeux, said “ECOR has been in sold in Europe for several years now. We built the first manufacturing facility in Serbia, where cellulose fiber waste has been converted into ECOR panels. Our ambition has been to build an ECOR facility in the Netherlands and throughout Europe with strategic regional partners, like Van Houtum.”

They will begin producing ECOR this Spring in town of Swalmen, where an ECOR R&D facility will begin manufacturing these materials. Then in early 2018, the large scale production facility will be operating alongside the current paper manufacturing operation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The English translation of this article was done internally by Noble Environmental Technologies, with minor edits for accuracy, clarity and readability.

 


 

Sustainable building designs offer businesses several advantages. Increasingly, companies are using green building materials to magnify the cost-saving effect of sustainable energy technology. Environmentally minded companies enjoy the financial benefits of being green.

Big-name companies are going green 
Environmental Leader recently reported that Whole Foods and Google are now using a building material called Ecor in their business locations. Ecor, developed by Noble Environmental Technologies in Serbia, is made from 100 percent recycled material.

Interestingly, Ecor was created in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture and is used by cabinet and furniture makers, designers and architects alike. It can replace materials that are typically made from cardboard, plastic, aluminum, fiberboard and traditional wood panels. Ecor is also free of toxins and highly practical, according to the news source.

Sustainable materials such as Ecor offer businesses the same durability and use as other trusted building materials, but they also save money for companies due to the less expensive maintenance and repair costs. Ecor is one of many options available to those who want to incorporate greener materials in their corporate properties.

Sustainable techniques keep costs down during winter
As winter settles in, the topic of insulation becomes relevant with regard to energy efficiency. Homeowners commonly reduce their heating costs by applying window treatments and using programmable thermostats. On the business side, there are similar methods that can be employed to keep costs down.

Mike Schoenecker, vice president at Winkelman Building Corp., recently wrote an article on LinkedIn that outlines how green building saves money. Schoenecker said that the financial benefit of sustainable energy like solar power and geothermal technology is compounded by installing green materials such as energy-efficient windows and roofing. In the same way that a homeowner insulates his or her attic as an easy way to keep heat from escaping the house, companies – some of which have already started using renewable energy sources – can select building materials that conserve energy and keep costs down.

Schoenecker suggested using bamboo instead of hardwood as a way to make positive changes without sacrificing durability or style. An investment of $4 per square foot now, he argued, will yield $58 of savings per square foot over a 20-year period. In his article on LinkedIn, Schoenecker also suggested using recycled glass, drywall and steel in buildings because of the money saved and benefit to the environment. Like Ecor, costs will be kept to a minimum without sacrificing product efficiency.

What successful implementation looks like
In the example of big-name companies, Whole Food uses Ecor for their signage, while Google uses it for their wavy interior panels. Ecor, according to Environmental Leader, is reportedly 75 percent lighter than conventional panel products and can also be shaped into any form – such as waves or spheres. While the manufacturing cost of Ecor started out at $3 to $4 per square foot, the current cost is approximately 29 cents per square foot. The dramatic drop in the cost of production signifies that with green building materials there is always room for growth. It is impressive that such a versatile product can be this affordable, which speaks to the strength of green building materials.

Schoenecker highlighted what many experts have said – businesses that invest an additional 2 percent in overhead for green materials, instead of traditional building materials, on average, will recover up to seven times of that cost in the long run.

Additionally, it is worth noting that there are government incentives for sustainable business practices. Schoenecker mentioned rebates and tax credits offered to businesses that commit to sustainable energy like solar, wind and geothermal technology. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a database that details all of these federal incentives. As green building materials become more widespread, partly due to their ability to accentuate the savings from sustainable energy technology, the government may soon offer additional discounts. Products like Ecor, bamboo flooring panels and recycled glass windows are already priced competitively with respect to traditional materials. It is likely that the costs benefits of green materials will keep getting better.

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Article by Antonio Pasolini

(3BL Media/Just Means) – Can you imagine getting waste materials such as wood, office and cardboard paper, organic waste, in short,​ any type of cellulose fiber, and turn it into a resilient​, super green ​material for a wide range of applications? Well,​ ​someone​ has​ ​ done ​just ​that and turned it into a successful business with clients such as Google and Whole Foods.

The company is called Noble, ​it​ is based in San Diego​, California,​ and was founded by Robert Noble, ​a veteran in sustainable architecture and design​. The material in question, which has the profile of a sustainability superstar, is E​cor​. Developed in partnership with ​the ​USDA, it is 100​ percent​ recycled, 100​ percent​ recyclable, cradle-to-cradle certified and replaces wood, particleboard, fiberboard, MDF, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and other composites.

​Ecor is manufactured by adding water to the fiber to make it stick. The resulting brew is then submitted to pressure and heat and, what’s even better, it remains completely free of toxic materials such as formaldehyde or petroleum.​ The ‘magic’ is in the technology Noble uses to process this material while keeping it clean​.

​Noble markets a wide range of Ecor variations​, which can be used for raw panels, consumer goods such as eyewear and domestic utensils, furniture and finishes, displays and containers. Noble is developing the product for construction as well.

The raw material can be sourced from a range of settings, including farms, urban areas and forests, which gives the company ​geographical flexibility​ and makes it possible to deliver locally, keep​ing​ transportation footprint low, as in the case of one of the deal packages Noble offers. Called YourCOR, it allows customers to recycle their own raw material stream, such as wood cuttings, offcuts, agricultural waste, etc) to create new ECOR panels and products for their own use. Talk about true lifecycle resource management​!

Alternatively, Noble offers ​the ​ReCOR Program, through which it will recover ECOR panels and products from clients after use at no cost. In some cases, ​the company​ even pay​s​ the client for panels that have not been treated with any type of toxic adhesives, resins, paints, etc.

​Besides having a game-changing product in its hands, Noble has also drafted in some heavyweight industry leaders to take the business forward. These include ​Anders Moberg, past CEO of IKEA Group and past International President of Home Depot, Rene Hausler, past CEO of IKEA North America and CEO of Noble Environmental Europe, Don Moody,former president of NUCONN Steel and Jay Potter, CEO of Greencore Capital.

To find out more about Noble and Ecor, visit their website linked to below.

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“Google and Whole Foods are among the companies using Noble Environmental Technologies’ building material product, Ecor, made from 100 percent recycled material.

Ecor is also 100 percent recyclable and free of toxins.

Noble created ECOR in partnership with the USDA and it is currently being used by architects, designers, furniture and cabinetry manufacturers in place of wood, particleboard, fiberboard, MDF, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and other composites.

The product is 75 percent lighter than conventional panel product, the San Diego Business Journal reports.

Whole Food has used Ecor for signage, while Google used Ecor for wavy interior panels — the pulp can be shaped into waves, patterns or spheres.

Noble produces 100 million square feet of Ecor per year at its manufacturing facility in Serbia. Manufacturing began at $3 to $4 per square foot; however, the company has brought the costs down to 29 cents per square foot, the Business Journal says.”

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Whole-Foods-Sign-ECOR-6Looking for a non-structural building material that is as versatile as wood composite, aluminum or fiberboard but far less toxic?

That’s the promise behind ECOR, a product made from recycled cardboard, wood scraps, even agricultural byproducts such as coffee grounds and corn-stalk fiber.

Developed by Noble Environment Technologies, ECOR already is used by Whole Foods and Google. The former incorporated it into signage and ceiling elements in its San Diego area store. The latter designed the material into panels for an employee and visitor lounge, and used it for custom columns in a headquarters lobby.

ECOR has been blessed with both Cradle-to-Cradle and USDA Bio-based certifications, which recognize its green qualities. NET describes it as “nature’s composite.” It doesn’t contain the same volatile organic compounds typically found in paints, particleboard or gypsum, according to NET’s founder and CEO Richard Noble. What’s more, the production process relies on existing materials that can be recovered from community and corporate waste streams, which means its production footprint is more sustainable than for other materials options.

“It’s very natural, very strong, aesthetically appealing and easy to work with,” Noble said.

The material is a three-dimensional engineered, molded fiber. While it isn’t suitable for structural applications, it is being used for signage, trade show and retail displays, stage and set construction, room dividers, containers and packaging.

One factor behind ECOR’s growing momentum is the improving economics associated with its production process. While it used to cost $4 per square foot to make the material, those expenses are now “trending below 30 cents,” Noble said.

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Businesses are using circular economy thinking to find radical new ways to repurpose waste and save scarce resources

Group of babies in nappies crawling around
While Mexico is turning used nappies into roof tiles, Scotland is concerting them into park benches and railway sleepers. Photograph: Alamy

Conscious consumers know not to use disposable plastic bottles, or single-use plastic bags, and try to use as little packaging as possible in order to save the planet. A growing number of companies are also developing innovative ways to give waste a second lease of life.

1. Nappies to roof tiles and railway sleepers

Every parent knows that disposable nappies generate enormous amounts of waste. And with the average baby using the equivalent of 150kg of wood, nappies waste a lot of resources, too.

To remedy this, two years ago Scotland – with a total of 450,000 used nappies per day – pioneered a nappies-to-roof tiles scheme. Nappies are collected in recycling bins and sent to treatment plants, where they’re sterilised and the human waste removed. The plastics and celluloid contained in the nappies are then converted to everyday products such as park benches, railway sleepers and road signage.

In Mexico, consumer product giant P&G now turns rejected Charmin nappies intoroof tiles, while scraps from its American Pampers nappies are reused as upholstery filling. Fifty P&G plants now produce zero manufacturing waste, and it claims that repurposing the waste has created an additional value of $1bn for the company. Elsewhere, a growing number of parents are turning to GNappies. The British company makes nappies in two parts: covers that can be reused, and inserts that can be composted or even flushed down the toilet with human waste.

2. Paper to reduce food waste

Rarely does one blank piece of paper make a big difference. But FreshPaper, an organic and biodegradable sheet added to fruit and vegetables, keeps the produce fresh for two-four days longer, thereby eliminating countless tonnes of wasted food. As world demand for food keeps rising, eliminating food waste will become even more important. Today FreshPaper, first sold at farmer’s markets in America, is available in shops in several dozen countries.

3. Sustainable construction materials

San Diego-based Ecor takes cellulose fibres, a material found in wood, cardboard and even forest and agricultural waste, and turns it into new construction material. The process is surprisingly simple: the waste is mixed with water, heated, pressurised and made into sturdy panels that can be used in a variety of functions: as wall panels, tables, bowls, building walls, even glasses frames. Best of all, the products contain no toxic additives and can themselves be recycled at the end of their life-span.

4. Clothes from old water bottles

If you really need to buy soft drinks or even bottled water, make sure to recycle the bottles; they can be used for yarn. Bionic Yarn turns used PET bottles into fibres that can be used in clothes. This is how it works: the bottles are cut into chips, which are in turn shred into fibres. The fibres are mixed with polyester and spun into yarn. The end product, reports Bionic Yarn, contains 40% recycled plastic bottles, including ones from the large colonies of plastic bottles floating on the world’s oceans.

5. Agri-waste into plastic bottles

Bio-on provides an excellent reason to choose your plastics carefully. The Bologna-based company has developed a pioneering process that allows it to turn agricultural waste into biodegradable plastics. Using a fermentation process involving sugar beet, Bio-on manufactures plastics that can be used for anything from food packaging to electronics. Better yet, the process requires no chemical additives, and the end products are biodegradable, dissolving upon prolonged contact with bacteria.

6. Worms as fertiliser

Repurposing waste can be as simple as it is ingenious. In Guatelamala, Byoearthuses red worms to transform food and other biodegradable waste into organic fertiliser. Doing so, of course, reduces waste but also results in higher-quality soil.

7. Food waste to biogas

Got food waste, need energy? BioTrans Nordic has got just the thing for you, especially if you work in a restaurant, canteen or other large kitchen. The Danish company’s BioTrans tank stores food waste, where it turns into biomass. The biomass is collected by a truck for delivery to biogas plants and delivery to local customers.

8. Recycling polyester

Japanese firm Teijin didn’t set out to repurpose clothe; it’s a chemical company. But, almost as a by-product of its R&D, Teijin discovered a way of recreating polyester from itself. Because reusing clothes’ fibres has long been considered near-to impossible, Teijin’s discovery was a considered a breakthrough. It has already saved tonnes of clothes from landfill, and earlier this year, Swedish firm Re:newcell unveiled a similar process for cotton. For several years now, retailer Patagonia has sold clothes made from Teijin-recycled fabric.

Today you can wear new clothes made from old clothes and old plastic bottles, while eating food enhanced by old food – and stored in plastic containers made from agricultural waste – in a restaurant powered by food-waste energy and decorated by agricultural-waste wood panels with nappy-based roof tiles. Not too shabby.

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Steve Potisk interviews Noble Environmental Technologies [NET] Founder and CEO, Robert Noble, about ECOR sustainable material technology.

MarketWatch, published by Dow Jones & Co., tracks the pulse of markets for engaged investors with more than 16 million visitors per month. The site is a leading innovator in business news, personal finance information, real-time commentary and investment tools and data, with dedicated journalists generating hundreds of headlines, stories, videos and market briefs a day from 10 bureaus in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In addition, MarketWatch offers subscription products for investors, including the Hulbert Financial Digest suite of products, Retirement Weekly and ETF Trader. The MarketWatch Radio Network provides radio stations with market-news updates every 30 minutes. MarketWatch is part of The Wall Street Digital Network, which includes WSJ.com, Barrons.com, AllThingsD.com, BigCharts.com and VirtualStockExchange.com.

Steve Potisk is a morning drive anchor for the MarketWatch Radio Network, appearing on KFWB/Los Angeles. He has won a Dateline Award from SPJ’s Washington chapter.

View the video here.

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