Making It Work: Plastics recycling firm looks to close loop on expansion trail

Greentech sources waste from disposable contact lens makers and turns it into high-grade natural plastics

20th September, 2020
Making It Work: Plastics recycling firm looks to close loop on expansion trail
Ian Barry, co-founder at Greentech Plastics: ‘Our technology is capable of producing near-virgin quality materials from waste streams.’ Picture: Alan Place

It was while running the plastics division at One51 Plc that Ian Barry came up with the idea for Greentech Plastics, the Limerick business he launched in 2011 with co-founder Sharon O’Dwyer.

“The plastics division at One51 was big. We had annual revenues of €120 million and we were spending €60 million to €70 million on materials,” Barry said.

“It was all new or ‘virgin’ material though, and I wanted to replace as much of that as possible with recycled alternatives.”

What Barry discovered when he began researching the market for suitable suppliers was an opportunity for a new provider that could do a better job producing high-quality recycled polymer for big manufacturers like One51.

Barry set up Greentech Plastics in Limerick with O’Dwyer, a chartered tax advisor, developing a proprietary closed-loop recycling system that would set the company on the path to growth.

“My career has always been in engineering and manufacturing. There’s not a lot I don’t know at this stage about plastics, from polymer raw material to plastic conversion methods, manufacturing and sales,” Barry said. “We set up Greentech and off we went.”

Earlier in his career, the 55-year-old Limerick native had set up Protech Performance Plastics. The Cork company was acquired in 2006 by One51, before the latter's name was changed to IPL Plastics).

“I had that business experience behind me, and with Greentech we decided to develop our own bespoke process for refining post-industrial plastics. That gives us a lot of room to expand, because we can set up new facilities near suppliers pretty much anywhere in the world,” he said.

Greentech sources plastic waste from disposable contact lens manufacturers in Ireland and Britain. It set up a recycling facility in Southampton in 2018 followed by another in Waterford last year.

Its customers include injection-moulding manufacturers and compounding companies in the pharmaceutical sector in Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

“Our technology is capable of producing near-virgin quality materials from waste streams. That means we can sell to plastic manufacturers that need high-grade recycled natural plastics,” Barry said.

“Our business is capital-intensive. What we do is niche, but it’s high volume. We process more than 1,000 tonnes of polymer per month,” Barry said.

Now the company is on the expansion trail, having negotiated a multi-million euro financing packaging with Beechbrook Capital Partners in London at the start of the year.

“We already have requests to expand our services into central Europe, the US and Latin America,” Barry said.

“We would be further along at this stage only for the pandemic. Once that settles, it will be full steam ahead. We have advanced plans in place with manufacturers in Hungary, Puerto Rico and upstate New York.”

In addition to organic growth, Barry said Greentech was “eyeing a number of strategic acquisitions”.

“Our ultimate goal is to be a producer and consumer of our own recycled materials. We want to be a unique example of how the closed-loop circular economy can function in real life,” he said.

“We have committed backers in both Enterprise Ireland and Beechbrook Capital Partners. We’re looking forward to a really exciting growth phase over the next five years.”

Greentech employs 40 people and is a client company of Enterprise Ireland. “We set up originally as an export-focused company and Enterprise Ireland supported us from the very beginning,” Barry said.

“They have provided financial support, including equity, capital grants and, more recently, sustaining enterprise funding. Our development officers over the years have given excellent guidance.”

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