25 September 2007

Thailand: Bio-Plastics from Bagasse

Company is using Waste from sugar cane as raw material

According to a report in the Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation, Bagasse, an agricultural waste from sugar cane which until now has had no economic value, can now be used to produce a new kind of food packaging which is safe for health, environmentally friendly and biodegradable.

Food-packaging manufacturer Biodegradable Packaging for Environment (BPE) in Thailand 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 (NIA), which allocated THB 20 Mio. (approx. EUR 450.000) to form a joint-venture with the new manufacturing company. The total value of the project is around THB 400 million (about EUR 8.9 Mio.) including technology development and the establishment of a manufacturing plant.

Dr Weerachet said the company had 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. According to the newspaper The Nation, the company’s binder has passed the safety standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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.

The price of the new product is THB 2 (EUR 0.04) per piece, around 100 per cent higher than foam packaging.

(Cf. news of 2007-09-10, 2007-05-26 and 2006-04-19.)

Source: The Nation, 2007-09-04.

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