Just four rubber compression machines, six employees and a production of 1,000 pairs per day. This was the story of António Ferreira, when exactly 30 years ago he created Bolfex. Today, the company has a production capacity of 25,000 pairs per day, having diversified its product mix, ranging from rubber to EVA/B-light products. It is, however, the ability to recycle that makes Bolflex a unique company.
In fact, in 2021, Rubberlink recycled 1,200 tons of industrial waste, shoes, tires, including all the waste generated by Bolflex as well as waste generated by other competitors, valuing and transforming everything into new raw material, especially for the footwear, but also for other industries such as textiles, automobiles and construction. There was a doubling compared to the previous year, in terms of the amount valued, and they currently have a production capacity of 5,000 tons per year.
Currently with 170 employees, Bolflex has become an international reference in the production of components for the footwear industry. But these are not isolated facts. António Ferreira has always been concerned with the topic of Sustainability, knowing that something would have to be done to minimize the excessive tons of waste sent to landfill.
At the time, it was a matter of burying a potential future raw material, polluting the soil and buying new raw material, in a cycle that seemed endless, until resources were exhausted and there was no longer any land for landfill. The need to do something was critical and the urgency to solve a serious problem that most manufacturing industries still have at hand today.
Recycling, upcycle, waste treatment and sustainability have become one of the company’s premises, if not the most important. This is how Rubberlink emerged, a waste recycling, transformation and recovery company, belonging to the Bolflex Group with unique skills and abilities at European and World level. Subsequently, Bolflex, with the backup of Rubberlink, is a pioneer in the reuse of waste and implementation of the circular economy indoors and outdoors.
“It is an economic added value”, says António Ferreira. “The Bolflex Group’s commitment to recycling is not only to maintain it, but also to reinforce it. Even if we were to double our capacity to recycle waste to transform it into new raw material, and given what we see in the surrounding industries, we can consider that there is room for exponential growth”.
“When we recycle, we promote the circular economy, and we develop an economically valuable product with excellent performance. The final products (recycled) maintain the same physical, mechanical and chemical characteristics of the virgin material”. The head of the Bolflex Group guarantees that, despite all the tons recycled, there is still a lot to do. “I have difficulty understanding how so many tons of future raw material are still wasted and how we can still be wasting resources for nothing”, says António Ferreira.
Part of the market re-education process has been carried out through the introduction of recycled products, and the Bolflex Group already has a wide range of products with these materials and raw materials.
S360 Rubber, for example, is a raw material applied to rubber soles and plates, which contains up to 20% of recycled old shoes (whole and in one piece, without dismantling), included in its original formulation. In this process, used, old or unused shoes are used as part of the raw material that is part of the final component. They are initially granulated, micronized, in large machines and with a very particular process. In the next stage, the granulate is devulcanized and subsequently transformed into large sheets of a dark latex-like material. The entire process is patented.
As explained, up to 20% of this new sheet material will be added to a new rubber formulation, thus obtaining an innovative, ecological, sustainable producer with all physical and chemical guarantees, complying with the latest Standards and Certifications.
“This innovation in devulcanizing shoes to make new products – such as new soles, leather-like R-Skin rubber plates and even soles and insoles – is already patented by Bolflex and is something ahead of its time” says António Ferreira. Find more.