Polygiene CEO Ulrika Björk speaking about the ViralOff® technology
As part of our interview series with Ingredient Brand shapers, we spoke to Ulrika Björk, CEO of Polygiene AB. With years of experience in producing treatments that keep garments, footwear, gear and textiles fresh and last longer, Polygiene was searching for a solution to support the making of antiviral and reusable facemasks. A new technology was born - ViralOff®
1. Why has Polygiene developed the ViralOff® technology and why is it important to use antiviral applications in finished products?
UB: Polygiene actually exist because of the outbreak of SARS back in 2004. Demand for anti-microbial treatments increased rapidly. In the beginning we treated materials for hospital and other hard surfaces. After SARS we moved into textiles and utilize the sustainable benefits of our technology and encourage people to Wear More and Wash Less.
Viruses can live long, up to weeks, on surfaces like textiles and therefore it is not good if they accumulate. But on the other hand, constant washing or discarding of products is both wasteful and time consuming. Our treatment let the product take care of itself, being virtually virus free in two hours.
2. How could you develop the ViralOff® technology so fast? Also you brought it quickly into many customers and applications. Tell us a bit more about that.
UB: When the novel Corona virus started to spread – we could move fast and pick up our old experience and knowledge of anti-viral treatments. Polygiene is a small, fast moving company and could respond very quickly to the new demands. In the beginning we mainly treated PPE, like face masks and scrubs for hospital but since ViralOff has been more known, requests start to come from various segments, like fashion and home textiles. We have many new customers onboard and more is yet to come.
3. An important topic is also sustainability. We see a huge increase of single-use masks everywhere, also in the oceans. How do you ensure that products made with ViralOff® technology are manufactured in the most environmentally friendly way?
UB: We have been very serious about sustainability for a long time, ensuring not only that our processes and applications are certified by Bluesign, Oekotex and ECHA etc but even more importantly, that life cycle analyses show a benefit of the application.
One example: a garment that lives only 9 months longer than average will save 30% of its environmental footprint. A pair of jeans worn 10 times before washing rather than two saves 80% - not even counting on the longer life but the savings on the washings only! And on top of that you can add savings in microplastics in the oceans, detergents and energy. When it comes to single-use PPE, that you normally use once and then discard – with a treated product, you can use it over and over again.
4. Let’s take a look into the future of Polygiene and ViralOff®. What is there to expect from your Innovation pipeline and how do you want to develop your brand in the future? Is ViralOff® helping you to build the Polygiene brand or are you seeing it as a separate brand?
UB: We think the mission of ViralOff is a duality: on one hand it will be the leading ingredient brand in virus reduction. Just like you instantly and intuitively understand what Bluetooth, GoreTex or Intel inside means, you will know that a ViralOff marked product will be inhibiting viruses. But also, the environmental aspect of this is huge. So ViralOff, just like Polygiene's Stays Fresh solutions for odor control, is as much a story of not having to wash, not having to discard and extend lifetime of products. We are brand driven, meaning that we hold the need to make and keep promises ahead by talking about how we do that, in each instance. Our brand is a guarantee for the quality of the product in all aspects, sustainable and compliant technologies and communication to enable the end consumer to change behavior.