As a hobby, he developed technologies that make it possible to reuse materials. From this a company was born: Niaga®, an anagram of "again". Over the past years Niaga® has developed a highly scalable technology for a completely recyclable carpet. Niaga® is nowadays part of Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies. In an exciting conversation, Niaga® founder Chris Reutelingsperger tells us about his challenges and what drives him every day to make the world a little better.
What was the biggest challenge at the beginning of your entrepreneurial career?
I started out with high ideals. Everyone was interested in my ideas, but they all asked: How much does it cost? So it was obvious that the recycling of materials had to be economically viable. The most expensive parts of a product are undoubtedly the material costs and the disposal of the materials at the end of the life cycle. This is where I had to start. When you consider what madness it is to destroy valuable raw materials in the end. And that is exactly the point. Raw materials are valuable resources, they have to be reused, again and again. For me, this was and still is the starting point for sustainable and economic processes.
"Start at the end": that's your approach to product development. Why?
For decades, several materials were used in the manufacture of carpets which could not be effectively/efficiently separated and recycled at the end of their life cycle. A radical turnaround is called for. Thinking about product design from the perspective of the end: how can we reuse materials and keep the value? How can we close loops and thus prevent the loss of valuable raw materials? And which business models and forms of financing actually enable the transition to a circular economy? How can we go from waste to less waste and then to no waste at all? And how can we act in a more environmentally friendly way? Life cycle assessments in which Niaga® was compared with conventional methods show a very significant reduction in environmental impact throughout the product's entire life cycle.
What was and is important to you about working with OBJECT CARPET?
It was and is important for me that OBJECT CARPET with Lars Engelke, Daniel Butz and Heiko Kühnen had the courage to change something fundamental in the manufacturing processes, so that at the end of its useful life, a carpet can really be recycled in all of its components.
This has never been done before by anyone in the carpet industry. With OBJECT CARPET, I have found a partner that thinks outside the box and is not only focused on selling a piece of carpet – but on what that will look like tomorrow. OBJECT CARPET's farsightedness, that something has to change immediately so that there is a future; this – from my point of view – is unique in the industry.