email interview with Małgorzata Then, CEO, Biotrem
Q: Hi Małgorzata, nice to meet you. So tell us, what is Biotrem? What kinds of products do you offer?
A: Biotrem is a Polish technology company developing an innovative production process of bio-based tableware and packaging. The patented technology allows us to manufacture a biodegradable disposable tableware from sustainable organic raw materials, such as wheat bran, corn bran, cassava by-products, seaweed or even algae.
Biotrem’s main product line is fully biodegradable disposable tableware produced from the compressed wheat bran. Our offer also includes cutlery made from a mix of PLA bioplastic and wheat bran.
Q: How did this idea come about?
A: Our unique production process was invented almost two decades ago by Mr. Jerzy Wysocki, whose family’s milling traditions date back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Mr. Wysocki was researching a better application for wheat bran, a by-product in the grain milling process, other than animal feed or compost. His research resulted in the production process fuelling today’s Biotrem production plant.
Q: Does food taste different when it’s on Biotrem tableware?
A: Our tableware, made out of compressed natural wheat bran, is perfect for serving hot and cold dishes. In case of longer contact with liquid meals – especially with hot soups – the smell or taste of bran may slightly penetrate the meal, but it’s not an unpleasant feeling. It reminds me of freshly baked bread.
Q: How is Biotrem more environmentally friendly than the alternative? How is Biotrem a solution to our waste problem?
A: Disposable products, made from wheat bran, are an excellent alternative to most of disposable tableware, i.e. made from plastic or paper, the production of which has a heavy and negative impact on the environment.
From 1 ton of pure, edible wheat bran – which is a by-product in the grain milling process – we can produce around 10,000 plates or bowls. What’s more important, our products are fully biodegradable and compostable within just 30 days.
Q: What about costs? Why should I buy Biotrem vs. other alternatives?
A: Actually, price-wise our products are on the same level as most of other bio-based disposable products. We should be aware that many of so-called eco-products is fact aren’t so much environmentally friendly. In many cases the organic material they are made out of requires processing involving large amounts of water, chemicals and energy.
The beauty of our innovative production process lies in the fact that it enables the use of unprocessed organic material, most often by-products in the agricultural or food industry.
Q: How can we tell the difference between your products and those that aren’t processed in an environmentally friendly way?
Well, being a conscious consumer requires some – at least – basic knowledge about how things are made and what are they made of. It really helps you make good and responsible choices.
Let’s take a paper cup as an example. You could say that since it’s made out of paper – an organic material that is biodegradable – it probably is an environmentally friendly product. or at least less harmful that a plastic cup. But then you must realize that paper is made out of trees; that the paper industry utilizes huge amounts of water, chemicals and energy; that a paper cup or plate can’t be made out of recycled paper – it always must be a fresh, clean paper; that a cup or a plate used to serve food can’t be recycled; and finally, that a paper cup or plate is able to withstand liquids because its surface is coated with a thin plastic or wax film, which makes it hardly recyclable or biodegradable.
As a responsible company, we commissioned an independent institute to conduct the Life-Cycle Assessment study for our products, which, among other things, proved that one (1) kilogram of wheat bran product generates in total – considering the whole wheat cultivation process, transportation, processing and utilisation – around 1.3 kg of CO2, meanwhile the functionally comparable mass of widely used polystyrene disposable plates or cups generates in total around 8.5 kg of CO2.
A comparative study of the impact on the environment, human life and natural resources is unequivocally in favour of the wheat bran product – for most categories the result is about 60% lower than for plastic-based products. That is a huge difference.
Q: What markets is Biotrem in currently? How do you aim to expand?
A: So far Biotrem has managed to build an effective distribution network across the Europe. Currently, we are expanding our sales and distribution on other continents – North and South Americas, Asia, Australia, Africa. Our business development is also supported by intense marketing and advertising campaigns.
Q: Who are your customers and what has been the reception from them so far? How are your products relevant to the tourism and hospitality industry?
A: So far, our largest clients are the caterers, organisers of large events, music festivals, live shows and wholesalers. The tourism and hospitality industry is also very interested in our products. We are receiving a lot of inquiries from holiday resorts, especially those located on tropical islands, where waste management is expensive and has a negative impact on the natural environment.
With the development of sales channels, supported by intense marketing campaigns, we hope to reach also end customers. We are already observing their huge interest in our products.