Saltrex rescues goods worldwide from incineration

Rejected goods find a new purpose on Saltrex’ auction platform. “More than 70,000 tonnes since we started,” owner Michael Hajdasinski notes proudly. “I believe our platform proves that the business sector can have a massive impact on the circular economy.”

The circular business model of Saltrex

Michael Hajdasinksi (44) is the CEO and founder of Saltrex, a company whose core business is providing circular B2B solutions. Goods that have become unusable for their owner, for example due to damage in transit, can still be very valuable to someone else. The Saltrex Auctions platform is where supply meets demand, and that can lead to some surprising solutions.

Having worked as a lawyer in Rotterdam, Michael saw damaged and residual goods being destroyed on a large scale. Millions of tonnes of goods are classified as waste every year in the EU, with over 40 percent ending up in incinerators or landfill. Often for no good reason. That prompted Michael to create Saltrex Auctions.

A second life for goods

“A cargo of commodities, let’s say grain, corn or cocoa, can be classified as unfit for consumption if there is something wrong with it, like mould,” Michael explains. “The cargo is incinerated or an insurer can sell it for a knockdown price to a fermentation company to convert into biofuel. That’s not a bad way to use it, of course, but it’s still rather a waste. Because often there’s not much wrong with the product and the seller only gets a low price for it. As a lawyer I often thought, “Isn’t there a better way to use those goods? One that benefits all parties and is good for the planet too?”

In 2015, Michael traded in his career in law for a life as a circular entrepreneur. “At Saltrex Auctions we match supply with demand so that rejected or damaged goods get a second life and re-enter the circular chain at the highest possible level. They get a new purpose that maximises the benefit for all concerned and also prevents raw materials from being wasted. It may sound complicated, but it’s really not. It’s just a question of exploring, creative thinking, and bringing parties together.”

You can often do more than businesses realise

A lot more is traded on the platform than just grain, corn and cocoa beans. Michael: We had a load of fish that was rejected because of a glitch in the cooling system. EU regulations state that a cargo like that has to be kept under minus 15 degrees Celsius but the transport records showed that this load had been one or two degrees above that for a short while. So the customs people classified it as unfit for consumption in the EU. A couple of hundred tonnes of fish, that was perfectly okay. Since cooling standards vary from country to country we were able to find a buyer in Dubai, a fish processing company that makes animal feed. The temperature requirement for fish storage is slightly higher in Dubai so they were allowed to buy the cargo – at a reduced price, of course. Otherwise, the fish would certainly have been destroyed.” 

“Here’s another example. A roll of sheet steel was rejected due to some white discoloration after it was exposed to seawater in transit. Usually it would be traded as scrap metal, melted down and reprocessed – with all the additional transport and energy use that entails. We found a garage door manufacturer in Poland who could make good use of the sheet steel, because he has to clean the metal he uses anyway. He paid a good price and was able to press the steel into an end product without further processing.”

Completely open

Thanks to his legal background, Michael knows the regulations around commodities and foodstuffs well. “It’s good to have those rules in place, they’re there to protect us. That’s precisely why we also make sure we stick to the rules and are transparent about it. What we do, has to be legal. If we put a rejected cargo on offer, we are completely open about what’s wrong with it in a way that everyone can see. If necessary, we provide signed documents too. What makes the Saltrex Auctions circular concept so strong is that despite all the restrictions, there are still amazing ways to give rejected goods a second life.”

Second platform: Certified Reuse & Recycling

Now that Saltrex Auctions is up and running with a growing number of global partners, Michael is setting up a second platform: Saltrex Certified Reuse & Recycling (CRR). This platform is specifically intended for things that are due to be destroyed because they’ve become unusable for brand protection or food safety reasons. Often, they can be made unrecognisable using certified processes, bought and recycled into a different product. Michael hopes to use Saltrex CRR to bring together businesses and circular solutions in this way to rescue vast quantities of damaged and surplus products and goods. Michael: “It’s a response mainly to insurers asking us to find a sustainable solution for these kinds of goods. You can recycle soiled T-shirts bearing a brand logo into cotton towels, for example. That way, we can stop these kinds of rejected goods from being wasted and give them a new life instead.”

Learning every day

What Michael likes most about the work is that he’s learning every day. “It’s my job to look for solutions. So I’m constantly investigating the possibilities of products and technologies. Saltrex CRR will take that to a higher level. It will be a kind of Google for circular solutions that also provides support in the final step of implementing the solution. Businesses that make their solutions available on the platform will benefit too. And that will bring the circular economy another step closer.”

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