To tackle Thailand’s growing waste problem, a company turns to the country’s flora.
Universal Biopack manufactures packaging that it sells to restaurants and manufacturers. But rather than plastic, he uses a mixture of bamboo and cassava, crops widely grown across the country.
After experiencing rapid growth over the past decades, Thailand has emerged as one of the largest economies in Asia. But like many other countries in the region, it has been slow in trying to tackle the millions of tons of waste produced each year.
“Waste management is a big problem everywhere,” said Universal Biopack general manager Vara-Anong Vichakyothin.
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The company uses technology designed at a Bangkok university to manufacture its zero-waste packaging. He hopes it will eventually replace many of the Styrofoam boxes and plastic bags that end up in huge landfills across Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Its eco-friendly formula took five years to develop and is so adaptable that it could end up being used to wrap things like furniture and even phones. The bamboo he uses comes from leftovers from the chopsticks making process.
In the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where take-out beverage containers and packets of noodles line the sidewalks, the company supplies restaurants, organic farmers and other businesses in the food and beverage industry.
But finding new clients can be tricky.
Takeaway vendors in Thailand want to cut costs in a competitive business with low margins. Asking them to spend more on packaging for environmental reasons is a tough sell.
“The local economy still cannot support [this technology]said Universal Biopack founder Suthep Vichakyothin.
But that hasn’t stopped other companies from entering the sustainable packaging market in Thailand. Like Universal Biopack, they are betting on a growing awareness of the environment, ultimately leading to an increase in demand.
To become more competitive, the Suthep company is investing. Its goal is to increase production by building a partially automated assembly line at its factory near Bangkok and doubling its workforce from 50 to 100 people.
The goal is to increase the monthly capacity from 300,000 units to one million.
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Much of the demand comes from abroad. One of his clients uses the natural packaging of the coconut water he exports.
Universal Biopack says it is also generating interest in its products in other countries, including Scandinavia.
CNNMoney (Hong Kong) First published on February 12, 2017: 9:08 p.m. ET