Published on September 4, 2007
Food-packaging manufacturer Biodegradable Packaging for Environment is using agricultural waste to develop an innovative product which does not harm people's health and can replace the existing foam and plastic-based packaging.
The company's managing director Dr Weerachet Kittirattanapaiboon said that as plastic and foam used for food packaging came with substances that could lead to cancer, bio-based food packaging was a new alternative.
Since bio-based food packaging is produced from agricultural waste, he said it's free from chemical substances, which could save people's health and the environment.
The company has developed technology and a production process to use bagasse to produce food packaging and it received support from the National innovation Agency, which allocated Bt20 million to form a joint-venture with the new manufacturing company as a part of its plan to encourage the development of bio-based products in Thailand.
The total value of the project is around Bt400 million including technology development and the establishment of a manufacturing plant.
Dr Weerachet said the company had explored technology and finally it developed its own process to make disposable food packaging products, which can resist temperatures from minus 40 degrees to 250 degrees Celsius.
A key technology in the production process is the binder, a polymer substance that can force the bagasse pulp particles to join together so when it comes to use with food, the product can be heat resistant and waterproof. The company's binder has passed the safety standards set by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.
The pulp is shaped at 180 degrees Celsius, then passed through a UV-light sterilisation process to make sure the food packaging is free from contamination.
The company's manufacturing facilities can now produce around 200 million food packaging pieces per year, of which around 80 per cent are for export to 27 countries with the remainder sold locally.
The company has 27 food-packaging product lines.
NIA's director Supachai Lorlow-hakarn said the new food packaging was intended to replace the plastic and foam packaging used today.
Thailand now produces around 2.3 million tonnes a year of plastic and foam waste and getting rid of it requires good management and money.
He said since the new food packaging was produced from biomass, it could degrade within 45 days so it's not necessary to spend anything on waste management.
Meanwhile, using biomass will add more value to the country's agricultural products. This project increases the value of bagasse pulp from Bt80 per tonne to Bt20,000 per tonne, and it reaches Bt120,000 per tonne when it becomes bio-based food packaging products.
To encourage people to use the new packaging, NIA has initiated a pilot project to use it in the Science Ministry's canteen for two months.
As the price of the new product is Bt2 per piece, around 100 per cent higher than foam packaging, the pilot project is offering the packaging at Bt1 per piece. It's hoped the project will reduce the use of foam packaging by around 20,000 pieces during the pilot test.