Insights from Albin Kälin, EPEA Switzerland GmbH

In this article, Albin Kälin, founder and owner of EPEA Switzerland GmbH, talks about the success story of Cradle to Cradle® products, the circular economy, and the new possibilities with ALFAPURA® adhesives.

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Albin Kälin is the founder, owner, and CEO of EPEA Switzerland GmbH. He was the first-ever to implement a Cradle to Cradle® product, winning several prizes for the patented and revolutionary textile “Climatex®”. In 2005 Albin Kälin was appointed as CEO of EPEA Int. Umweltforschung GmbH in Hamburg and 2 years later founded and took position as CEO of EPEA Nederland. He successfully realized Cradle to Cradle® concepts and products within the industry and built EPEA’s strategy for the future. In 2009 Kälin founded his own company to implement Cradle to Cradle® projects with a global team of industrial experts. EPEA Switzerland GmbH is an accredited assessor for the Cradle to Cradle Certified® certification.

What is the Circular Economy?

Circular economy means designing the products in such a way that the raw materials used can be maintained in quality over several life cycles without being toxic. This kind of thinking contradicts the linear thinking which we have been growing up with. In the system of linear economy, raw materials are lost, whereas the circular economy changes the economic value chain and lays its focus on sustainability and eco-friendly materials. In short: Cradle to Cradle® is the “Champions League” and embodies the vision for a "safe and circular future".

There are three different aspects of flows within a circular economy which are enabling to make the process more transparent than ever before:

  1. Material flows that are secure and cyclable (“waste = food“ zero waste)

  2. Information flows creating a transparent supply chain network and to close the loop enable take-back systems and reintegrate the materials into the industrial supply chain

  3. Financial flows, in a transparent supply chain maintaining the value of safe non toxic raw materials, which are preserved and not eroded in price via downcycling

Circular economy means designing the products in such a way that the raw materials used can be maintained in quality over several life cycles without being toxic

Explanation about technical cycle

Durable goods (televisions, cars, synthetic fibers, etc.) are dismantled into technical nutrients once they have fulfilled their function, thus enabling the production of new consumer durables. The user or consumer only uses the particular service, for example, television reception. The safe materials are retained in the technical cycle via take-back and recycling systems.

Explanation about biological cycle

Expandable goods (natural fibers, cosmetic products, detergents, etc.) are designed to be reused repeatedly in the biological cycle. For this purpose, they are decomposed into biological nutrients to promote biological systems such as plant growth. The raw materials and substances that grow back form the basis of new products.

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ALFAPURA® adhesives safe for biological cycles

Now that we learned about the differences between the biological and the technical circuit, it becomes obvious that ALFAPURA® adhesives are designed to be safe for the biological cycle. Common belief would therefore suggest that these products are also compostable, but as Albin Kälin explained does compostable not automatically imply that a product is eco-friendly and safe? To be considered for a C2C Certified Material Health Certificate(™️) Certificate, a product has to be cyclable which means there is no waste. Moreover, all ingredients must be scientifically evaluated by accredited auditors according to the globally acknowledged methododology Material Health Assessment ABC-X. Besides material health and circularity, renewable energy, CO2 management, water, and social fairness are assessed and evaluated.

In practice, this means that the ALFAPURA® adhesives do not have to be disposed of as toxic waste, but rather can be reused and kept in cycles. This explainsthe fact that any used chemicals are safe and must not be cancerogenic, mutagenic, or harmful to reprotoxic. On top of that, all ingredients are eco-friendly and safe for the biological environment. The adhesives are used in various fields of application such as hygiene products, packaging, textile, printing, and wood industries. Different products of ALFAPURA® have been developed for different applications.

Cradle-to-cradle certified®: How to get started

The Cradle-to-Cradle Certification® is a way to validate products and companies for their sustainability irrespective of their industry. ALFAPURA® offers a wide range of certified adhesives for different industries.

Learn more
Cradle-to-cradle certified®: How to get started

Future outlook and conclusion

On Feb. 21, 2021, the EU Commission was mandated by the EU-Parliament to implement the New Green Deal. A large majority voted for this deal which results in a binding legal act which will be needed to be inforced by the government of each member state country. For industry in general this means it will become legal and binding. The New Green Deal consists of three elements. On the one hand, the aim is to become climate-neutral by 2050 (Germany wants to achieve this goal as early as 2040), on the other hand, the transformation from a linear economy system to a circular economy business system, enabling a paradigma change. The third element drives for a toxic-free environment for all products from all industries.

Albin Kälin is confident that things will change when there is a legal basis as companies will be forced to implement these guidelines or they will no longer be considered legally compliant. He urges companies to begin the transformation as soon as possible in order to gain advantages. The point of no return has been exceeded.