Engineer Creates Business that Revolutionizes Recycling Market

Guilherme Brammer Jr. put Boomera on the map in reusing difficult plastics by bringing together waster pickers, industry and academia

Empreendedor Social 2019

Cristiano Pombo

São Paulo - Paulistano Henrique Guilherme Brammer Júnior, 42, always liked to take apart things to learn how how they work.

This curiosity shaped his choices and defines his work today as a materials engineer and the social entrepreneur ahead of Boomera.

"I'm a garbage man," said the father of Carolina, 7, and João Pedro, 3, with his mouth full.

Brazil only recycles 4% of all the waste it produces, so Brammer Jr. has embarked on the most challenging route in his Boomera social impact business: managing waste that is difficult to recycle (dual or triple composition plastics).

His vocation began at the age of 17 when he "took apart" something his grandfather loved — a Voyage GTI wine. He snuck off with the car without a driver's license and destroyed it on a pole in the south of São Paulo.

Guilherme Brammer (Foto: Eduardo Anizelli/Folhapress, EMPREENDEDOR SOCIAL) - Folhapress

The accident provided him with one of the great lessons that changed his life.

Instead of receiving a scolding from his grandfather, the young man received a letter from him that Christmas 1994. In it, Edward de Mello told his grandson that material goods are replaceable and actions define people. Therefore, he should have a purpose in life.

The lost adolescent stopped going out with his friends and even abandoned football. He even played with Kaka, Belletti and Caio Ribeiro at the Paineiras club. "I figured I had to go to college to be someone," he says after an emotional cry as he recalled his grandfather's advice.

He graduated in materials engineering and started working, like his father, in the packaging industry for large companies that produced plastic, steel and paper.

"And I wondered if what I was doing was leaving a legacy. I didn't want to be known for selling plastic," he said.

This restlessness lasted until in 2007, when his wife, food engineer Fernanda Andrade, was shaken by the loss of her father-in-law due to cancer.

"My father-in-law, then undergoing chemotherapy, came to the office at two in the afternoon and called me for a beer and drumstick. He said that life had to be lived intensely."

So he decided to live life with intensity. After reading the book "Revolution in a Bottle," he decided to go on LinkedIn and send a message to the author, Tom Szaky. "He answered me and asked me to meet him at a meeting he would be at in Brazil."

In the middle of the meeting, the gringo revealed that he was the new CEO of a recycling company, TerraCycle. Brammer Jr. worked at Szaky's company for a year until he left to set up his own social impact business. "I had visited a waste picker cooperative in the south of São Paulo, and that was a punch in the stomach. How did people in such unhealthy environments have such joy and purpose in their actions?"

After this experience, he threw himself headfirst into the cause. He even attended an event dressed in a suit made of chocolate packaging to show that it was recyclable.

There were setbacks along the way, such as losing his own company, Wise Waste, to his partner.

"It was hard. I arrived to work after the breakup, and we didn't even have a computer."

The birth of his daughter Carolina in 2012 sparked a passion that moved Brammer Jr. to recreate the business.

"She brought me luck and strength to battle and start all over again."

A dedicated to family man ("I don't have a babysitter, and I don't miss a school meeting"), rock and roll enthusiast ("I don't miss a Paul McCartney concert in Brazil") and motorcycle lover ("No I miss the chance to go for a ride and never fall"), Brammer Jr. created a mantra for life and the cutting-edge company he founded.

"From beginning to beginning," he repeats, one of the pillars of the circular economy.

And to go beyond material recycling, he created CircularPack, a six-step methodology that proposes a complete journey for companies eager to immerse themselves in this new concept. For example, Boomera made 15,000 music instruments out of Tang packaging, for example. The company then donated the instruments to 100 public schools in 2014.

At the same time he was winning clients with original ideas, Brammer Jr. was pioneering partnerships with waste picker cooperatives in Brazil. Boomera now partners with 200 of them in 13 states.

Telines Basílio do Nascimento Júnior, 54, a Rio de Janeiro native, presides over Coopercaps in the south of São Paulo, described the impact of Brammer Jr.'s company.

"When we started, we earned $ 50 every three months. Today, we can pay from $ 1,400 to $ 1,700 to each cooperative member per month," he said. "Most importantly, even with the economic gains and our professionalization, I see Boomera worrying about people first."

The cooperative has 8,000 impacted collectors, and offers management courses, mentoring, refurbishment of refectories, new bathrooms and work safety equipment.

The sparkle in the eye is not just for those who work directly with Brammer Jr. "I consider him a visionary. With Boomera, it's different, all actors have equal weight," said executive Gabriela Onofre, who, while at P&G, pushed the multinational to become Boomera's first customer.

In addition to helping companies comply with the 2010 National Solid Waste Policy, which makes manufacturers responsible for the proper disposal of the waste generated by their products, thereby connecting them with waste pickers, Brammer Jr. also connects these two entities to academia. Boomera has a research and development laboratory within Instituto Mauá.

From there emerged innovations such as recycling used disposable diaper. Today, the social entrepreneur recycles three tons from nurseries in São Paulo, which undergo sterilization and become products (baskets and hangers).

But more than the “king of trash,” as he is called, Brammer Jr. considers himself a connector.

"I can bring people together. Waste pickers, business managers, and academics. It's a win-win for everyone."

The birth of his second son, João Pedro, came the year he decided to buy a packaging factory in Cambé (PR), a milestone that led to aggressive business growth. "He gave me the courage to meet this new challenge."

Boomera has grown from 30 to 150 employees. Revenues also increased, which should reach R$ 100 million in 2020, with the opening of new factory in Atibaia (SP).

But for Henrique Guilherme Brammer Jr., who sports a tatoo of the circular economy (one of seven tatoos) and who helped give new life to 60,000 tons of plastic, the most important thing is to know that the waste pickers have a better life and that their children are proud of their work. His grandfather would be proud too.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon