Thailand reducing plastic waste with innovative materials

New packaging made from organic and biodegradable materials is becoming more widely available in Thailand and should start contributing to a real reduction in the amount of plastic waste produced in the Kingdom, an industrialist said last week.

Speaking at Tokyo Pack, an international conference on packaging held in the Japanese capital last week, Pattra Maneesin, secretary-general of the Asia Packaging Federation, cited several examples of eco-friendly packaging being manufactured and used in Thailand by local companies and by foreign firms.

KU Green developed by Kasetsart University, for instance, is made from cassava root and is used to make cups, trays, dishes, bowls, and boxes. Cassava is also an ingredient in a compound named PBS that is being used by Thai energy conglomerate PTT to make the Amazon Bio-Cup, a biodegradable cup used in its fast-growing Café Amazon chain of coffee shops.

“We need to create more innovative packaging with sustainable resources, which reduces costs for the company. Taking on the 3R concept – reduce, reuse, and recycle – and produce biodegradable and compostable packaging with reduced carbon footprint labels,’’ Pattra said.

“Reducing the carbon footprint means manufacturers can manage their ecological footprint to minimize global warming,’’ she added.

She praised PepsiCo for reducing plastic materials by 20 percent in many of its beverage containers, and Danone for getting rid of plastic lids on its yogurt containers.

Thailand has also introduced Returnable Plastic Crate trays for fresh fruits and vegetable displays in supermarkets. The crates are collected from the supermarkets and then cleaned so they can be re-used. The country is also experimenting with selling carbonated beverages in returnable glass bottles using a deposit system, a practice that was common in Western countries decades ago but that has mostly disappeared.

Also last week, CP All, which franchises the local 7-Eleven convenience store chain, launched a campaign to “reduce and stop” plastic bag use by its customers. Store clerks will now ask customers if they want or need a plastic bag, rather than automatically handing them out.

“Our mission is to reduce and stop plastic bags in 7-Eleven stores nationwide. We urge all Thais to simply stop using one plastic bag per day, everyday. Doing so would help mitigate global warming,’’ said Tanin Buranamanit Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of CP All.