“With today’s waste, we can prevent the waste of tomorrow”
Leadax, located in Wapenveld in the province Gelderland – East Netherlands – is the inventor of Leadax Flashing, or ‘the new lead’: a lead substitute made from waste. This circular invention has proven to be a market niche and is now for sale in 14 countries. And, this is just the beginning, because Leadax is concocting even more circular products.
The waste that Leadax uses as a resource is polyvinyl butyral (PVB), better known as the laminate that is fused into security glass. Thanks to the laminate, the glass remains whole even when it breaks. Glass from broken screens is melted down, but there was no use for the leftover laminate. “That is the waste we are using now”, CEO Roeland van Delden explains. “With today’s waste, we can prevent the waste of tomorrow”.
“PVB is available in large quantities: a million kilos per year globally. This ensures that Leadax can be produced continually and that afterwards, it can be re-used and recycled.”
By re-using materials, Leadax prevents earth’s depletion. Besides that, ‘the new lead’ also has a number of advantages over traditional lead. Van Delden sums up: “it is non-toxic, cheaper, 31 percent greener, has a larger roll-length and it is not ‘as heavy as lead’. Furthermore, its lifetime is as long as lead’s.”
Leadax sprang from Bitufa Waterproofing B.V., a producer of, amongst others, bitumen for roof covering and Flexobit for waterproofing concrete in cellars. “Those products flourish and continue to do so. But, the news in 2014 was that the Netherlands should be circular by 2050. So, a number of circular substitutes for our products was needed. We set out creatively and turned our circumstances into an opportunity. Thus, a new product was borne.”, Van Delden says.
It became clear to the team that the company had created something special when Leadax received two innovation awards in one night. “When awarded the Veluwse Innovatieprijs, we won both the jury prize and the audience prize.” Van Delden reminisces. “We knew then that if this audience is on our side, the rest of the country is too.”
Indeed, more awards have followed, and the CEO decided to ask Oost NL, the development company of The Eastern Netherlands, for help. Van Delden: “What we needed was a network, a stage and a name. Aalex Jansen and Karolien de Bruine of Oost NL created those opportunities. Oost NL supported us also with a voucher from ‘de Groeiversneller’, an Oost NL-program. We were visited by members of the provincial council and were given exposure in all sorts of ways. It has helped us to think big.”
Photo: Award winner Leadax
At Oost NL’s suggestion, Leadax applied for the National Icon contest of this year, a contest of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. “We achieved a top ten place. This again opened doors for us, among which speaking time at the Clean Economy Conference Horizon19 in Boston.”
Leadax, the new lead that was introduced to market in 2017, is the first in a whole range of products that Leadax wants to produce with PVB as source material. “We have patent on the use of PVB in circular products. All products are non-toxic, made from waste and recyclable. We are developing car mats, cellar sealant and artificial grass. We plan to introduce a substitute of bitumen in 2020: Leadax Roofing. It has a white colour, and because of that it uses less energy for air conditioning.” Based on the notion that materials can be used eternally, Leadax is working on a concept to offer Leadax Roofing as a service. “At a monthly fee we lay the roof, do the maintenance, organise the cleaning and take care of the replacement. The used roof covering material is recycled into new covering. That is circularity and this way we have continued access to the raw material”, Van Delden explains.
The team’s creativity has served Leadax well. “We are one of the first to combine circularity and profitability in one product”, says Van Delden. “Our revenue model is sustainable: we work with waste which ensures a low raw material price. Because of this, the product is both circular and twenty percent cheaper for contractors to buy than lead. All partners in the business chain profit from this, which makes it durable for the long term.”
Leadax’s Mission is that no lead is used in an around our houses from 2030. “In the end, if we want to replace fifteen million square metres of lead, Leadax needs to become the new generic name”, Van Delden says. “We expect that in future, ‘lead’ will only be present in proverbs.”