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Meet the grad who keeps plastic out of our oceans

Raffi Schieir leads by combining passions for sustainability and business
August 18, 2020
By Joel Barde

“We need consumers to start identifying a preference for products in recycled packaging and prevented-ocean plastic,” says Raffi Schieir, MBA 07. | Photo credit: © Prevented Ocean Plastic™

In a world facing significant environmental threats, the prospect of creating a business that is at once profitable and also contributes to the betterment of our planet appeals to many entrepreneurs. 

As founder and director of Bantam Materials UK Ltd., Raffi Schieir, MBA 07, is one self-starter taking action to create a more sustainable world. “We take this work really seriously,” says Schieir. “We put our full effort into creating a program that provides for genuine traceability and an open supply chain.” 

Sourcing plastics from around the globe, Bantam Materials supplies about 5,000 tonnes of recycled plastic to manufacturers on a monthly basis, which is then transformed into everything from personal protective equipment to pop bottles. 

Approximately one third of the plastic the company collects stems from so-called ‘at-risk’ areas where it could very easily end up in the ocean. These areas are found within 50 kilometres of an ocean coastline — or major waterway that feeds into the ocean — in countries or regions that lack waste management infrastructure and collection incentives.

“Our Prevented Ocean Plastic Program makes up roughly 1,200 to 1,500 tonnes per month of our output, making it the biggest ocean plastic prevention program in the world by a large factor,” says Schieir. 

He says that the program helps incentivize plastic recycling in countries or regions that lack waste management infrastructure and collection incentives. This, in turn, helps put a dent in the roughly eight million tonnes of global plastic — as estimated by the Plastic Oceans non-profit organization — on an annual basis.

A network of Concordians

After graduating with an MBA from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) in 2007, Schieir spent five years working as a commercial banker before starting his own business.

“I wanted a business that does more good than harm.” | Photo credit: © Prevented Ocean Plastic™

“I kind of dropped my suitcase and went into plastic recycling — and I’ve now been involved in the industry for the past 10 years,” he says. 

Schieir looks back at his time at JMSB fondly, noting the vast network he developed. He remains close with Jonathan Berke, MBA 09, a published researcher on sustainability and leadership strategies who serves as vice-president of the Solution Centre at Rizing HCM. 

Berke was one of the original co-founders of the John Molson Sustainable Business Group

Schieir adds that his studies at JMSB helped him develop a business literacy that serves him well in his current employment, where he leads a team that works across numerous jurisdictions and supply chains. 

“It allowed me to engage these markets with an understanding of the various disciplines within business work,” says Schieir.

Keeping oceans clean

In Schieir’s view, the next step in addressing ocean plastic writ large is to raise the public’s understanding of the issue. He believes that from there, the demand for products that are sourced from at-risk areas will grow. Bantam Materials is already supplying grocery stores in the European market, with an eye on expanding into North America. 

“The main thing that we need now is for consumers to start identifying a preference for products in recycled packaging and prevented-ocean plastic,” says Schieir, adding that the Prevented Ocean Plastic Program has third-party certification through OceanCycle.   

Reflecting on his career path, Schieir says he is grateful to be running a business that helps keep plastic out of our oceans. 

“I wanted to find a way to run a business that supports my family and allows me to have interesting work,” he says. “I wanted a business that does more good than harm.” 


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