Teemu Henriksson, Good News from Finland 10.10.2018
This Finnish company offers a unique biological solution that removes organic waste in pipes, significantly increasing their lifespan.
“Plumbing renovation” – just hearing the words can strike fear into the heart of any homeowner. Being notoriously expensive and painstaking, remodelling the pipe system is something most of us would rather not think about, inevitable as it may eventually be.
ProtectPipe aims to help postpone that day as far as possible: the company’s products help sewage pipes last longer, extending their lifespan potentially by decades.
The solution lies in not letting organic waste build up in drainpipes. Left untouched, organic waste starts producing toxic gases such as sulphuric acid, a highly corrosive gas that erodes pipes.
Designed for preventive care, ProtectPipe’s microbial solution uses bacteria to remove organic waste, thus helping pipes operate better – and pushing back the need for repairs. As the microbes turn organic waste into harmless water and carbon dioxide, the product is an ecological alternative to other drain cleaners currently on the market
The two-year-old company has already witnessed strong demand for its offering: ProtectPipe’s turnover grew by 150 per cent last year from the year before, reaching 1.2 million euros. During the same period, its foreign exports almost quadrupled.
Fighting eutrophication with microbes
To illustrate the impact of preventive care on pipes, Hannu Keränen, the company’s director of administration and finance, draws an analogy with brushing teeth – a practice that only really took off in the 1960s.
“Little by little people came to understand that if they remove organic remains by brushing their teeth, it prevents cavities and bad breath,” Keränen says. “We should think of plumbing the same way. Instead of preventive care, currently we just let pipes get increasingly brittle until they have to be replaced entirely.”
Behind ProtectPipe’s creation was a simple question. Moving to a new apartment, Klas Alfthan, the company’s founder and head of R&D, learnt that his new home had over 100-year-old plumbing. Wondering how the building’s pipes had been much more durable than the average, Alfthan started looking into the topic.
Once he discovered that microbes have a key role in industrial water treatment, he set out to explore if the same principle could work also for maintaining drainpipes, which lead to the development of ProtectPipe’s solution.
In addition to guaranteeing a long life to pipes, the company’s products help reduce the environmental load of wastewater and prevent toxic substances from entering the environment. This helps in the fight against eutrophication, or the excessive build-up of nutrients in the sea that leads to rapid growth of algae – a major threat to the Baltic Sea.
Protecting nature while saving money
ProtectPipe initially targeted primarily restaurants but has since expanded to shipping companies. For further growth, the firm is now especially looking at housing co-operatives, where it sees massive untapped potential.
Building upon its success in the Finnish market, the company recently started online sales to Sweden, and its products are already available through retailers in other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Estonia and Norway. During the next year, it plans to take its foreign sales to the next level by expanding to all countries around the Baltic Sea.
“Our general philosophy is that being ecologically friendly is crucial, but it alone is not enough. Our products also have to be financially advantageous for the customers,” Keränen says.
“Your plumbing can be a ticking time-bomb, and without proper care you have no idea when it’s going to go off.”
You can also read the article on Good News from Finland website.