‘Changing the Game’ in Petrochemical-based Materials

‘Changing the Game’ in Petrochemical-based Materials

Agricultural residues could replace oil in packaging materials

The concepts of Fair Trade, sustainable development and social justice drive the vision of Rafael Tannus, who first conceived of the idea of creating 100 per cent sustainable packaging materials from agricultural residues about four years ago.

Rafael holds a degree in biological science with a masters in ecology, focused on ecosystems, climate change and environmental risk analyses. His pursuit of a doctorate has been put on hold while his company, Tamoios Tecnologia, develops what he believes will create effective change for poor, rural areas in Brazil in a world painfully dependent on petro-chemicals.

His idea is to source agricultural waste or residues from small-scale banana farmers in Vale do Ribeira (Ribeira Valley), the poorest region of the State of Sao Paulo. Using this material, combined with other eco-friendly agents, he can create material that could replace plastic in a number of everyday uses.

For now he’s starting “humbly”, he says, by designing practical vases that can be made cheaply, turn a modest profit, and prove the technology is viable.

In five years’ time, he’ll create much more complex products and in 10 years, he envisions closing petrochemical packaging plants and filling new, sustainable operations with the displaced workers, all while providing new opportunities for agricultural producers.

“We can change the game,” Rafael says.

“We are going to buy a residual that right now is nothing but waste, and in buying a waste we are literally creating value from nowhere.”

The farmers he intends to source from will have an instant additional revenue source, he adds, and his vision is to encourage farmers to utilize best practices in sustainability through a rating system he’s developing. Higher prices for the waste product will be paid according to the sustainability of agricultural operations.

His goal is to prove the efficacy of the entire operation, from source to final product, with Fair Trade certification.

When asked about what drives his passion for change his reply is as simple as it is blunt: “For me, the world is unacceptable as it is, so we need to change it,” Rafael says. “It’s simple like that; try to change things for a nicer way of living.”

He couldn’t make the changes he envisions as a lawyer or a politician, he says, especially in a country where corruption, poor supply chains and exploitation is rampant, so he’s using his skills as an environmental scientist and his penchant for research and development.

Fair Trade certification and consumers who’re eager to support his vision are two key elements to the progress, he says, as he looks to have his first production facility operational in the Ribeira Valley by February.

In the meantime, he’s connecting back and forth with labeling bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to certify sustainable greenhouse gas emissions at his new factory, and the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), one of the most renowned international agencies for inspection, certification and quality assurance of eco-friendly products.

He will move forward regardless of the personal risk and sacrifice, hoping to inspire agricultural producers, his future competitors and consumers alike, and eventually he’ll give the petrochemical industry a run for its money in the packaging industry.

“We can change the world effectively,” Rafael says.

“If we live, work, buy and sell without the perspectives of fairness, social justice and environmental sustainability, then we are definitely doing it wrong.”

If you have questions or comments, or would like to learn more about Rafael Tannus, and his work in Brazil, contact Kristian at 800-294-0051, ext. 24 or e-mail kristian(at)axiomnews.ca.


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Kristian Partington

Kristian says he's been a storyteller all his life, and from an early age he thrived in the creative process of putting pen to paper. With Axiom News, he says he finds as much power in the conversations he has with sources for stories as he finds in the stories themselves.

"It's the questions we ask that catalyze great conversations, and more often than not I come away from the conversation somewhat improved. I like to think the person on the other end feels the same way. From that point on, the stories sort of write themselves."

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