“LIMEX” made from limestone is a new material that can be used as an alternative to paper and plastic.“LIMEX” protects water and forests, and contributes to reducing the consumption of petroleum resources.TBM Co.,Ltd
The product was named by adding X, which means infinite possibility, to LIME of limestone
Points to be noted
- Development of a new material from limestone, a commonly found stone, to replace both plastic and paper
- The manufacturing process places less burden on the environment and makes recycling possible
- Promotes upcycling to increase value addition
The new material “LIMEX” developed by TBM Co., Ltd contains 60% lime. Limestone deposits are present in large quantities throughout the world, and can be said to be a common stone. Even Japan is 100% self-sufficient in limestone.
“LIMEX” can be used to manufacture “LIMEX sheets” as a substitute for paper and plastic sheets, and “LIMEX pellets” which is an alternative to plastic.
The opportunity came in 2008, when Nobuyoshi Yamasaki, a company representative found out about the “Stone paper” of Taiwan. Stone paper manufactured from limestone caught the attention of Mr. Yamasaki at a time when ecology was gaining attention, and he started importing the material to Japan. Though companies in Japan were interested in the concept, unfortunately there were problems with the quality.
Mr. Yamasaki consulted Mr. Yuichiro Sumi, who was a leading expert in synthetic paper research. They started research with Mr. Sumi as the main person from 2010 for manufacturing a material to substitute paper from limestone with their own manufacturing method. Mr. Sumi is now the company president.
“LIMEX” was created after several years of research and development, and in 2014, the basic patent was registered in Japan. The company has applied for basic patents in more than 40 countries globally, among these, registration has been completed in 30 or more countries.
“LIMEX sheet”, which is an alternative to paper, has a great advantage that it can be manufactured from “LIMEX” hardly using any water. Wood pulp is used as raw material for conventional paper and requires large amounts of water for cleaning. Approximately 100 tons of water is required to manufacture 1 ton of plain paper.
However, wood pulp is not used in “LIMEX sheets”. This eliminates the process of washing and water is not required. Japan has abundant water resources and water scarcity has not attracted much attention, but globally, water scarcity is the greatest risk to the environment. Besides, it has been estimated that the global paper consumption will be double the current consumption in 2030. “LIMEX sheet” is expected to be a beginning for solving the problem of water scarcity and issues related to forests.
“LIMEX sheet” is as light as conventional paper, suitable for printing, and less expensive. More than 2400 companies are using business cards manufactured from “LIMEX sheets”. The material is highly water-resistant, and can be used in bathrooms, around water areas, outdoors, and even inside water. Banners used for sports events are manufactured from “LIMEX sheets” and recycled after use.
On the other hand, “LIMEX pellets” have the property due to which it can be used as an alternative to plastics. “LIMEX pellets” can support many plastic molding methods such as vacuum molding and injection molding, and many products are expected to be manufactured using this material in the future.
“LIMEX” is manufactured using 60% limestone and 40% polyolefin resin derived from petroleum, using limestone as a raw material will reduce the consumption of petroleum resources. Recently, while there has been an increase in petroleum prices, a large volume of the less expensive limestone is available which can be supplied at low cost.
A significant advantage of “LIMEX” is that recycling is simple and easy. New products can be manufactured using “LIMEX” produced by crushing and solidifying old “LIMEX” based products.
Limestone is inorganic, and its properties do not deteriorate with recycling, physical properties of “LIMEX” does not deteriorate even with repeated recycling. For this reason, the company promotes the continuation of semi-permanent type of recycling.
Since physical properties of “LIMEX” does not deteriorate, it can also be converted to products of higher value by recycling.
For example, when business cards manufactured using “LIMEX” are disposed due to change in name or location, TBM which has supplied the raw material collects the cards. “LIMEX pellets” can be manufactured by crushing and solidifying the disposed business cards. The “LIMEX pellets” are then used to manufacture smart phone cases.
Old menus are collected when new menus are designed at restaurants using “LIMEX sheets” to print their menus, and even plates and utensils can be replaced with products manufactured using “LIMEX”.
At present, the company is able to recover disposed products manufactured using “LIMEX” from companies, and in the future they want to work with national and local governments to promote the recovery of “LIMEX” from consumers. “LIMEX” has its own recycling symbol assigned like plastic containers and PET bottles, and the future goal is to make it possible to separate the material using the symbol in all houses and to recover the material.
The company is engaged in research for manufacturing “Biodegradable LIMEX” by replacing polyolefin resin, which is a raw material of “LIMEX”, with bio-derived raw materials that are biodegradable. At present, they are developing “Biodegradable LIMEX” capable of biodegradation in compost, and are working to commercialize disposable garbage and plastic bags. The product is scheduled to be launched in spring, 2019.
The medium to long term goal of the company is to develop “Biodegradable LIMEX” which biodegrades even in soil and ocean contributing to the solution for problems such as microplastics in the ocean.
“LIMEX” is manufactured at Plant No.1 of the company in Shiroishi city, Miyagi prefecture, having an annual production capacity of 6,000 tons. The company is constructing Plant No. 2 for mass production in Tagajo city, Miyagi prefecture, which is scheduled to be completed in summer, 2020. Plant No. 2 will have an annual production capacity of 30,000 tons, and the goal is further improvement of quality and cost reduction.
In the future, they want to set up plants across the globe, especially in areas where water is a valuable resource. Limestone can be procured locally as the material is available anywhere in the world. Saudi Arabia, which has few sources of water and is rich in limestone and petroleum-derived resins, is interested in the concept “Recycling innovation of local production for local consumption recycling, where products are manufactured, consumed, and recovered locally within the same country”.
“LIMEX” protects water and forests, and significantly contributes to reducing the consumption of petroleum resources. TBM is advancing its research focusing on the future and implementing public relation activities. The company goal for the future is to strengthen sales and enhance the track record of introduction. New materials from Japan are being advanced to a new level so that they can contribute as a major solution to the world's environmental problems. The company wants to focus on the future of “LIMEX”.
Interview Date: December 11, 2018
TBM Co., Ltd
The company was established in August 2011. They have developed “LIMEX” using a proprietary manufacturing method. “LIMEX sheet”, an alternative for paper and plastic sheets, and “LIMEX pellet”, an alternative for plastic, are used to promote the reduction of impact on the global environment. The company young and energetic company is attracting attention as the NEXT unicorn which will take the responsibility of future generations.
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