Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From Scrap to Profitable Business - Growth of the Recycling Industry in Macedonia

In 2005, young entrepreneur Mihail Mateski recognized the new USAID Plastic Recycling Project as an excellent entry point for kicking off the new recycling line of Greentech-Romania in Macedonia. In a country that had no previous history of recycling waste, the Plastic Recycling Project was working to create a plastic collection network that would supply recycling companies with raw PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) materials.

Greentech officially began activities in Macedonia in 2007 with an initial investment of 150,000 euros. The company only set up lines for sorting and shredding plastic bottles; it employed 15 workers and had the capacity to recycle up to 100 tons of plastic waste per month. With a USAID grant in 2008, Greentech-Macedonia conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment and obtained a waste-water treatment facility and safety clothing for all employees.

In 2009, Greentech became the first recycling company in Macedonia to operate in accordance with EU environmental standards. It is the only such company with its own waste-water treatment plant, which allows it to continually reuse the water expended for washing the PET. Greentech’s activities were assessed for environmental impact and standards compliance in 2009, and received an award from the City of Skopje for being the most eco-friendly company in the city.

In the first two years of its operations, Greentech-Macedonia recycled nearly 5000 tons of plastic PET waste. Currently, the company has four processing lines for bailing, separation by color, washing and flaking the PET, and an extruding machine that uses high temperature and pressure for hard plastics. The flakes are shipped to Romania to be recycled into final products. In 2009, Greentech unveiled its own final product: packaging strap made from recycled PET. More recently, the company began recycling hard plastics in addition to soft plastic bottles, producing granulate which it sells to domestic factories that produce irrigation pipes. Greentech’s locally produced granulate has completely replaced those companies’ imports.

As the demand for recycled PET waste increased, the number of Greentech employees increased and is now 90. The company employs vulnerable minorities, primarily Roma. Greentech legally registers each of its employees, enabling them to take full advantage of health and social security benefits. In addition, the company fully complies with safety standards in its processing facility.

Greentech buys PET waste from public utility companies, private and informal collectors, and through the various collection mechanisms developed by the Plastic Recycling Project. The company buys close to half of all bottles collected in Macedonia, significantly contributing to the fact that Macedonia recycles between 45 and 59 percent of all plastic bottles sold in the country, which is considerably more than the EU target of 22.5%. Greentech’s strong position on the domestic market and well-developed links with international buyers of PET flakes helped this company and all entities engaged in the supply chain survive the harsh 2008/2009 period when the price of plastic dropped significantly due to the global economic crisis and other recycling companies in Macedonia had to close their operations.

But now that the market has stabilized, Greentech is extending its collection activities in the Southern Balkans through its branch in Macedonia.

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