Hello everyone! This is Melisa from CICLO and we recently posted on our Instagram about my new business cards made out of LIMEX material. We asked our followers if they were interested in learning more about this innovative company from Japan and the majority of you said, “Yes!”. So today, here I am, following through with your request to let you know more about what LIMEX is all about. We were fortunate to hear back from the staff at TBM Co., Ltd. (the developers of LIMEX) for an opportunity to visit them at their office in Ginza. We met Mr. Tokuro Hatori, Sustainability Accelerator at TBM Co., Ltd. They give us a lot of good information and showed us a variety of sample products made with LIMEX material. Keep reading to find out more!
LIMEX: sustainable innovation from limestone
TBM Co., Ltd. has been in Japan since 2011 and was founded by Nobuyoshi Yamasaki. He has been a young entrepreneur since the age of 20 and listed his own company TBM Co., Ltd. (Times Bridge Management) in his 30’s. Mr. Yamasaki’s will is to create businesses and technologies that last for centuries, becoming a bridge through time. He found out about a unique stone paper method used in Taiwan during his travels there in 2008. Later, he found that limestone is a sustainable raw material found in abundance across the world. It is a resource that is 100% self-sufficient in Japan and can be recycled with high-efficiency. They believe that this sustainable natural material can save the world from our current environmental issues. With the start of his new company, he began to explore new technologies by making the impossible, possible: creating paper and plastic materials out of limestone raw material, LIMEX.
How are LIMEX products made?
Mr. Hatori explained to us that LIMEX products are made from limestone as its raw material. It is then grinded down to a fine powder and mixed in an extrusion machine with polyolefin resin which is a plastic-based resin. The final mixture is up to 80% calcium carbonate from limestone and 20% polyolefin resin (significantly reducing the amount of petroleum used). This material is heated and cooled as a sheet for paper or molded into different plastic items. TBM Co., Ltd. pledges that their products reduce the amount of water and eliminate the use of precious tree material in their production compared with wood pulp-based paper. Both plastic and paper products don’t require any special machinery for printing, it is highly-durable, water-resistant and recyclable. They started their production of business cards in 2016 and their plastic products in 2018. Mr. Hatori said that next year, their main goal is to complete building their second factory in Miyagi. This will not only increase the production of LIMEX products but also it would help increase jobs in the local community still affected by the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.
Polyolefin resin? But that’s still fossil fuel based, right?
That’s correct. However, like many other similar kinds of plastic alternatives such as Biofase in Mexico (read more about it here), synthetic additives are still a necessary component needed to make the final product durable and resistant. This is a fact that the staff at TBM Co., Ltd. are aware of and are working hard to develop new products. But there is good news ahead! Mr. Hatori mentioned to us that they are collaborating with their subsidiary company called Bioworks, in order to create a biodegradable resin meant to replace the current plastic-based one. TBM Co., Ltd. hopes to implement this material to the market very soon. This would make their products even more sustainable than they currently are.
What’s TBM Co., Ltd.’s next big challenge they plan to undertake?
Mr. Hatori told us that TBM Co., Ltd. doesn’t want to build the image that being “eco” means expensive. They are trying their best to make their product relatively affordable for anyone to use. TBM Co., Ltd. is continuing to collaborate with other sustainable companies and local governments with similar goals to increase their market and brand value. Mr. Hatori also explained that TBM Co., Ltd. wants to create an upcycling ecosystem movement beginning from Japan and then expanding worldwide. He hopes that through their products, more and more industries will follow in their footsteps to come up with better solutions to our current environmental problems. Because limestone is readily available globally, if they were to expand outside of Japan then a plant could be placed directly where the source is found, lowering production costs and increasing upcycling efforts locally. Also, they are aware that a more efficient collection system of their products for upcycling is needed. They believe this is one of their most important challenges to face within the next couple of years and hope to become the sustainable pioneers necessary to lead Japan right now.
Final notes on LIMEX: innovation through the power of limestone.
We hope you learned some new and important information about a very interesting take on how TBM Co., Ltd. is finding alternatives to conventional plastic and paper with their LIMEX material. CICLO believes that venture companies like this will be the key to leading Japan’s future in the right direction. We would like to thank Mr. Tokuro Hatori for taking the time to speak with us! We learned some interesting facts about LIMEX products and hope for their continued success in the future! Thank you for reading and I will see you next time!