Tecnogi, Circular economy project

tecnogi biorel

Leading group in the manufacturing of materials for toepuffs, counters and reinforcements for shoes, TecnoGi conveys its ability to innovate and manage change through eco-friendly solutions and behaviours

The crisis triggered by the Coronavirus outbreak has resulted in brand-new demands and requirements: bearing this in mind, the enterprise headquartered in Borgolavezzaro has been nurturing and strengthening its sensitivity when it comes to sustainable development, so as to enhance the circular use of materials and resource efficiency. Gianni Zanetti, CEO of the TecnoGi group, put in the limelight the most successful products lines, manufactured thanks to a well-established expertise and to cutting-edge technologies, the latter designed and implemented ad hoc.

Gianni Zanetti, Tecnogi’s CEO

Gianni Zanetti, can you assess the impact of the Covid-19 emergency on your business? And, what are your prospects for the future?
The company has suffered a severe blow. Pending the interruption of all activities as a result of the decree – even though that never came to pass, given that TecnoGi’s sector was listed among the essential ones, according to the Ateco codes -, in March, we increased production volumes, working even overtime, in order to handle all orders. A sacrifice that turned out to be useless, because our customers were forced to close down, both in Italy and abroad, said markets accounting for 25% and 75% of our production respectively. In May, the enterprise registered a 70% drop in turnover compared to the same month in 2019, evened out by the promising upswing in the June-October period, up to the new difficulties experienced in November. We have taken a hit, resulting in a 2020 turnover reduction by 30%. The acquisition of new orders in the year’s closing weeks does not inspire reassuring prospects for 2021. We have a feeling that we might end up struggling up until spring, hoping for a “revenge shopping” effect on the customers’ side, once the pandemic ebbs away in conjunction with the arrival of the vaccine. I am very proud of the fact that, so far, I have avoided resorting to redundancy funds. After forty-one years in the business without ever using social safety measures, it would have been a crushing defeat.

How is TecnoGi’s path towards sustainability proceeding?
TecnoGi has been focusing on sustainability way before said practice became the driving force behind the whole economy, both current and future, the keyword to win approval in every sector. We have been at the forefront when it comes to the implementation of circular economy strategies, recovering all processing scraps in order to reuse them in the production cycle and avoid wasting raw material. An initiative aimed at creating value, skillfully combining economy and environmental awareness. I have never boasted about this project, so as to prevent customers from asking for a discount, that might end up affecting the firm’s proceeds. As a matter of fact, before the “green rush”, the presence of recycled material was synonymous with lower product quality, thus resulting in the demand for a cheaper price. Our company, on the other hand, has always aimed at uncompromising quality. Over the years, we have been investing in the research and development of technologies and processes that might help us use high concentrations of recycled elements without going to the detriment of the material’s mechanical and application performances compared to articles made with virgin raw materials. Far be it from us to supply a product featuring safety and performance levels that are unsuitable for its purely technical function.

How do you manage to apply circular economy principles to your products?
Currently, the TALYN and RELION lines for toepuffs and counters belong to the range of fully recyclable products. In order to get said materials, we recover both in-house waste and processing scraps proceeding from our most prominent domestic and foreign customers: we pay for transport and they benefit from a marked decrease in waste disposal costs. Cutting operations’ scraps (the frame), that, according to the employee’s skills and to the cutting machine’s sophistication degree, account for 12/15% of the material’s initial weight, are reused in the manufacturing cycle in variable percentage and are turned once again into finished articles to be launched on the market. We are able to supply materials featuring, weight-wise, up to 66% of recycled elements. A seemingly simple circular economy procedure, that requires an innovative know-how as well as sharing the project with other partners. The GRS (Global Recycle Standard) certification we are about to obtain entails a minimum content of recycled material amounting to 20%. We are assessing also the chance to use post-consumer recycled material proceeding from different sources, but we need certainties concerning supply continuity.

As for product sustainability, what are the other corporate flagships?
BIOREL is our biodegradable article, embodying the most refined, innovative sustainability concept. It is a thermoplastic material for toepuffs and counters, made by processing polymers featuring natural starches placed in their chain so as to ensure complete biodegradability. The certification issued by the OWS institute based in Ghent, Belgium, confirms the requirements set by the international regulations EN13432 and ASTM D 6400: after 60 days spent in humus similar to the one used in the landfill, BIOREL manages to lose over 80% of its weight. The product was developed in 2009, yet, initially, it was not met with great success due to its high cost (+30/35%). However, recently, we have been experiencing a rapid increase both in the number of orders and in the resulting turnover.
Our latest innovation is called TECNOSOFT. It is a product for toepuffs manufactured with raw materials proceeding from renewable sources. For now, the range is still limited and rather expensive, but it has succeeding in arousing the market interest thanks to its eco-friendly features.

What are the sustainability-oriented initiatives implemented by your company?
Installed approximately ten years ago, the solar panels, featuring a 340kW power capacity, manage to meet around 30% of the corporate energy requirements. We have eliminated hazardous air pollutants emissions: our impregnation system uses only water-based, VOC-free (Volatile Organic Compounds) polymers. The adhesive treatments are solvent-free. The closed-circuit cooling system does not involve either water consumption or contamination. We use only packaging solutions with certifications concerning the recycled material, while striving to cut down waste as well. Eco-sustainability lies at the core to every business activity. Economy is the world’s driving force, yet, for every decision made, we carefully assess the environmental issues, paying close attention to the territory, in compliance with the UNI EN ISO 14001 certification.