“Moving towards bio-based plastics gives you so much great energy to know that you are part of something bigger and are making changes for the better in order to create a more circular world.”
Technology can never replace nature. In fact, nowadays more and more people are taking breaks away from the digital world and are expressing an interest in connecting with the outdoors in all its forms - from attending outdoor festivals to adventure camping and, of course, glamping. Many studies have shown that being outdoors is good for your heath and can reduce stress. And when you are outdoors in the woods without your home comforts, you will need the right clothing, cutlery and something to start a fire with in order to cook your food. A Swedish company is making waves in this area.
Calill Odqvist Jagusch is the passionate owner and CEO of the “urban” outdoor company Light My Fire of Sweden, which create outdoor accessories with colour, design and functionality. Jagusch’s love for nature has always been a driving force for her and the company’s vision of “we ignite dreams – today and tomorrow” has led to the firm’s decision to change ALL of its products to bio-plastics from 1 January 2019.
Here, Liz Gyekye, senior content manager at Bio-Based World News catches up with Jagusch, to find out all about Light My Fire.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Can you begin with a description about Light My Fire and what it is the company does?
Calill Odqvist Jagusch: (COJ): My father launched the company in 1995 when he started selling fatwood kindling sticks, which are bits of wood that originate from the stump of the tree that hold an enormous amount of resin in them, which makes them easy to burn. They are a natural fire starter and can help to light BBQ’s with just the use of one or two sticks. The sticks he used came from Guatemala.
I joined my father to help run the business in 1996 as the company started to grow. During this time, consumers were turning away from using chemical additives, paraffin or paper to light their fires and wanted natural alternatives. Demand got so great that we started to sell these sticks to supermarkets. However, although some people thought this was a great product, not everybody got it. Consequently, we started to take our products to outdoor shows and global exhibitions. We also took our Swedish ‘FireSteel’ product to these shows. This FireSteel product, which was originally developed for the Swedish defence department, can help to make fire in any weather. Together, the kindling sticks and FireSteel products have helped many people to start outdoor fires. While demonstrating the two products at these outdoor shows, we did not really sell the products but sold a dream - the dream of making fire outdoors.
People would admire our products at our exhibitions and start dreaming about how they were going to show these products to their wives, husbands or children. Our main motto is “we ignite dreams”.
When we started out at the end of the 90s, outdoor was about survival and it was quite ugly and dirty. You didn’t have female clothes in nice colours - everything was camouflaged. During this period, we started to expand our product range and make plastic accessories for outdoor life that actually looked appealing and nice. It might sound like a weird step from wood used to start fires to plastic products, but there is actually a connection to all of these products. Part of this connection is linked to the fact that “life is tastier” outdoors.
In 2005, we launched our plastic meal kit. Our product that became famous was the spork – a spoon, fork and knife combo. The name spork has actually existed since the 1700s. You never know when you create something if it is going to be popular or not. However, the spork has really took off since when we launched it. People have even been pictured with their sporks on social media on Mount Everest.
To date, we have produced 38 million sporks in our own factory in Sweden. Next year, we are switching to bio-based bio-plastic.
LG: What do you think about the wide range of terms surrounding the bio-based economy?
COJ: I personally don’t think that biodegradable is a good thing for what we do. We want our products to last for as long as possible. Why should we compost something that we can recycle? I personally can’t understand why. I am sure that there is great need for biodegradable products in the right places, but I don’t think it suits everybody. We have been fiddling with bio-plastics since 2013. We were fiddling with materials like waste coconut shells. However, at the time, we could only get around 30% of the coconut material into our products. If we started fiddling with the products and only had 30% of the product being bio-based then people would start to ask what was the other 70% left made up of.
Today, technology and the world has moved on with the topic. This led us to pick up the issue again in 2016. From then, we decided that we were going to make sure all of our products were made of bio-plastics from 1 January 2019. Therefore, this year we are phasing out all of our petroleum-based plastic and changing it to bio-based. We had a lot of challenges in doing this. For example, the spork was quite difficult to find bio-materials for. This is because a lot of the materials we used for this were brittle. However, we have now found a corn-based material for our spork.
LG: What is the biggest challenge your company currently faces?
COJ: Educating consumers and buyers about plastics. There has been so much confusion in the market about the topic. There is a current trend to say that “all plastics are bad”. However, this is not the case. Plastics can help to protect food to avoid food waste, and many other great things. The issue with plastic littering is a behavioural one. My dream is that we have uniform information about plastic materials. We can then educate all the consumers and buyers about this.
At the end of the day, the plastics industry has to help consumers make good decisions.
I read a recent article in the press that showed that when you recycle plastic, you save around 80% of energy. In contrast, when you recycle glass you need around as much energy to recycle it as when you make a new product. Consumers have to consider the environmental impacts of recycling a product and the whole sustainability picture.
Of course, it is great that we are changing to bio-based plastics and we are stopping our use of traditional petroleum-based plastics. However, we should always try and use recycled plastic when it is convenient to do so and when we can.
LG: What is coming up next for your company?
COJ: We have our huge launch – to launch all our products in bio-plastics this year.
Moving towards bio-based plastics gives you so much great energy to know that you are part of something bigger and are making changes for the better in order to create a more circular world. We are a small brand that can inspire others and share our knowledge about bio-plastics.
Elsewhere, we also launch a US subsidiary at the start of this year.
We are also starting something called purposeful activities, where we sell a leisure activity along with our products. My goal is that the majority of our turnover will come from selling activities rather than more and more products. The main bio-based materials we will use in our products ahead are green thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), Terralene and Ecozen.
LG: What is your favourite bio-based product?
COJ: A company is making products such as lampshades out of mushrooms. I think that’s pretty cool.
Calill Odqvist Jagusch will be speaking at this year's World Bio Markets Conference, the leading assembly for the bio-based economy, which takes place from 1-3 April in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.