“‘Hey, I have solution that’s sustainable, that’s cost-competitive and it’s made out of landfill trash.’” Liat Arad announced proudly.
As the Vice President of Marketing at UBQ Materials, she leads a robust team of marketing associates in crafting the UBQ narrative. She develops and oversees communication and branding strategy across platforms. Prior to her focus on sustainability, Liat worked as a strategic planner at Publicis turning market insights into big ideas.
“My job is to really spread the word the kind of revolutionary technology and sustainable solution that UBQ has to offer to the manufacturing industry.” said Liat. “A lot of times, people hear our story and they get really connected to the part about ‘We can empty landfills’.
“The reality is that the demand for plastic’s not going anywhere. The demand for plastic is just increasing; and we’ve found a solution that is kind of able to chew into that market and have a positive carbon footprint.”
UBQ Materials, a certified B-Corps since 2018, has been tackling the ever-growing global threat of landfill waste by transforming home waste into a new and usable plastic substitute that can reduce carbon emissions.
WHAT IS UBQ™?
“In my garbage pail in my kitchen I have leftover food from last night’s dinner, I have plastic packaging, cardboard from a recent shipment, and dirty diapers - lots of dirty diapers - and these are generally things that are considered unrecyclable especially when they are in one single stream.
“What UBQ does is we have this patented technology that allows us to take all of that mixed waste together in a single stream and create from it a completely new material that is bio-based and climate-positive.”
Liat explained how usually all the trash that’s in a landfill would decompose and release methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas and 6 times more potent than CO2. “It’s a dump truck that turned left into our facility, instead of right into a landfill.”
So for every tonne (about 907kg) of UBQ™ used, around 15 tonnes of CO2 is saved. It makes it all the more apparent why they would be classified as the ‘most climate positive material in the market’.
Their material is consistently made across the board, where organics taken from trash - and that can be anyone’s trash - are broken down into molecular building blocks. Household waste is no longer paper, cardboard or even chicken bones because they’re reconstituted when bound together with mixed plastics.
As complicated as it sounds, to be able to turn even the “dirty part of a dirty diaper” into a plastic that’s actually environmentally friendly is truly out of this world. And although UBQ Materials has been around since 2012, they weren’t the “magical solution” seen today.
“It was basically not an overnight success. There was a lot of work, around 7 years of R&D” so they really came out into the market at the end of 2018.
“We really, really waited. We didn’t launch anything beta, we waited till we had all the necessary certifications, making sure our material could stand up to industry standards because we knew we only had one shot.”
THEIR SOLUTION TO A GREENER PLANET
Since then, they’ve won awards like being the Top 10% of B-Corps doing ‘environmental good’ and made major moves in the industry.
“It’s very much on majority of large companies’ agendas to go green or to reduce their carbon footprint, whether it’s because of public perception or because it’s an innate part of their brand value or because of the increasing amount of regulations and economic benefits for companies that are choosing to use sustainable materials.”
Last year, they announced a collaboration with Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz, to implement UBQ™ into car parts. Liat expressed that just because it’s made of waste, doesn’t mean it can’t become a product that’s for luxury.
“Every material that comes as part of your Mercedes goes through hundreds of tests and trials before it gets accepted. So in order to be able to enter the automotive industry, which is extremely regulated, with a material that’s converted from landfill waste was a huge, huge hurdle that we were able to overstep.
“It did a lot for the perception of UBQ.”
And then this year, they are working with McDonald’s in Brazil to replace their plastic trays with ones made with UBQ™ - up to 7,200 trays made with UBQ™ were introduced in 30 restaurants.
“It’s not yucky. Your tray is not made out of waste, it’s converted from waste. At the end of the process, it’s a completely different material.
“Globally, there’s a race to reach net zero for all of these companies. In that sense, I think there’s a lot of fear around going green because it’s the assumption that, ‘I’d love to be good for the earth but it’s too expensive.’ Here, we’re really challenging that assumption and saying, ‘You can do it! And your CFO will even approve.’”
For a massive franchise like McDonald’s to make a move toward a positive change for the environment is a real feat. And Liat remains ever optimistic for the future.
“There’s so many people who are so passionate about saving this planet, and kind of keeping it intact for our future generations and our children.
“I would say that my real hope is to get that first milestone: we, UBQ, emptied a local landfill. It’s going to be really, really exciting. It’s going to require a lot of big commitments from our partners and expansion but that’s something we’re really excited about.”
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