In Thailand, takeout food vendors line many sidewalks especially in big cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. However, most of this food goes into plastic bags and packaging. One company is trying to change that – Universal Biopack (UB Pack) has taken up this all important challenge to provide sustainable packaging. Using technology developed in Bangkok University, it now uses a mixture of bamboo and cassava to make zero-waste packaging. The packaging is actually edible but the company encourages composting. It can also be used to make other products like lamps and boxes.
Like many other Asian countries, Thailand produces millions of tons of waste, including plastic annually. So, most of the Styrofoam boxes and plastic bags currently being used will eventually constitute a nuisance and end up in huge garbage dumps or even in the ocean!
The eco-friendly formula used by UB Pack took five (5) years to develop. It is so adaptable that it can be used to package other things like furniture and phones. Although bamboo and cassava are widely available across the country, the bamboo that the company uses are actually leftover scraps from the chopstick manufacturing process.
The company’s customers include restaurants, organic farmers, manufacturers and other businesses in the food and drink industry. However, convincing food vendors with thin profit lines to switch their packaging for environmental reasons is no joke. A lot of demand for this zero-waste packaging comes from overseas, especially in Scandinavia. Efforts are underway to partially automate the company’s production line, double staffing from 50 to 100 people and increase monthly production capacity from 300,000 units to 1,000,000! Now, that’s ambitious.
Companies like UB Pack that invest in sustainable packaging are definitely worth celebrating. We hope to see many more similar endeavours replicated across the world. Opportunities to share its formula and provide training for others should be expanded so that the impact of zero-waste packaging on the environment can be greater and far-reaching. Concerns about competing use of food products can be addressed by using the most widely available substitutes per region.
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