Let's replace styrene foam containers
Biodegradable Packaging for Environment (BPE) plans a series of aggressive campaigns in Thailand to increase consumer awareness of the health and environmental impacts of using styrene-foam containers.
Dr Weerachat Kittirattanapaiboon, the managing director of BPE, has gained widespread international recognition since pioneering the company's biodegradable food containers in 2006. In Thailand, however, most consumers remain reluctant to buy bio-packaging after comparing prices with those of the white styrene-foam containers that have taken root in the domestic market in recent decades.
Weerachat said that until now, the company had mainly focused on foreign markets due to the growing consumer concern in many countries over the environmental and health impacts of using foam containers.
BPE exports its bio-products to many countries, including European markets, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and the United States. Foreign sales account for more than 60 per cent of overall revenue.
Walmart stores in the US and Universal Studio in Florida, France and Singapore are among the major customers, he said.
Weerachat said that this year, however, the company would place greater importance on the local market, as more Thais were now changing their attitudes in an effort to reduce the amount of harmful foam and plastic that ends up in landfills.
This trend has persuaded BPE to expand the domestic market through health and environmental awareness campaigns around the country, he added.
Meanwhile, BPE has redesigned its brand from Bio to Gracz as a part of the strategy to strengthen brand image. The official launch of the redesign is scheduled for next month.
Weerachat said that besides supermarkets, superstores and convenience-store chains such as 7-Eleven, restaurants with take-away facilities and food-catering services are also target customers.
The company also aims to expand its bio-packaging into universities, hospitals and tourist destinations.
Campaign bears fruit
Last year, BPE joined hands with municipalities to launch a campaign encouraging restaurants and food vendors in Chiang Mai, Pai, Krabi and Bang Saen to use bio-packaging products.
Since the beginning of this year, many food vendors along a 5-kilometre stretch of Bang Saen beach have been using the bio-packaging instead of foam containers, said the MD.
"We have to provide the vendors with knowledge and foster understanding on health issues and environmental impacts. Meanwhile, Muang Saen Suk municipality offers a lower rental fee as an incentive for Bang Saen beach vendors to reduce the large amount of foam containers," he added.
Weerachat said many people still consumed toxic substances from food and food containers, ignorant of the fact that these substances can adversely affect health in a number of ways.
As they are made from bagasse, single-use BPE products are totally biodegradable within 45 days of disposal, turning the resulting material into natural soil-like fertiliser. This is in stark contrast, he said, to conventional plastic and styrene foam, which may take several decades to biodegrade and are poisonous not only to the soil and underground water sources, but also to the air we breathe.
The company's bio-products are fully microwavable with temperature resistance from -40 to 250 degrees Celsius, and heat resistant to 150 degrees, he said.
BPE, which has an annual production capacity of 240 million pieces, recorded an export value of Bt400 million last year.
Thanks to the growing demand in environmentally friendly products worldwide, the company enjoyed over 30-per-cent growth in overall sales during the course of last year. This year's sales are targeted at more than Bt520 million.
Currently, BPE produces more than 70 items of food packaging, including plates, trays, lunch boxes, bowls and cups, as well as other items made to customers' requirements.
The company is now considering diversifying into biodegradable toys in response to a growing trend for products made from natural materials, Weerachat said.