"Do Right. Do Good. Do Well." That's the motto of Aegis Packaging. Their stated goal is to protect our environment – and they do it with their recyclable packaging. What makes these special is the high-barrier coating, which is designed to keep oxygen and contaminants out of the food packaged with them, thus increasing their shelf life. The Singapore-based company is rethinking plastic packaging in the direction of a circular economy.
In an interview with K-MAG, Mardianto Adiguno talks about the plastics industry in Asia, the associated environmental problems and the O₂X™ high-barrier coating for food packaging.
How do you see the current situation, in particular the economic situation, of the plastics industry in Asia?
Mardianto Adiguno: The current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80 to 120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure. The cost of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at $40 billion annually – exceeding the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool.
60% of marine plastic debris enters the ocean from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Preventing plastic waste from entering nature requires both upstream and downstream solutions – from eliminating unnecessary plastic use and using more recycled and recyclable materials, to setting up and operating effective waste management systems.
Who is specifically responsible here? What is the need for action?
Adiguno: The governments should set national targets for waste collection, segregation, and recycling and invest in national/regional waste management infrastructure. They have to create a coherent and transparent Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework within national legislation that takes account of local characteristics, such as the role of the informal sector, while promoting a global treaty against plastic pollution on an international level. They also should monitor companies’ plastic use and enforce EPR legislation, creating a level playing field for all companies.
Companies also have a duty. They should reduce unnecessary use of plastics and transparently disclose the amount of plastic packaging they are putting on the market. They must take responsibility for products’ end-of-life impacts, from the design and choice of materials through to collection, sorting, recycling, and disposal. Lastly, they should also support the creation of EPR schemes and work with governments and other partners to improve waste management systems and raise consumer awareness.
What do you think are the three most important issues in the industry at the moment, both in Asia and globally?
Adiguno: Asia and Global are generating more plastic trash than ever, and very little of it gets recycled. Plastics and their byproducts are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways, and contributing to health problems in humans, animals and the environment.
One of the three most important issues in the industry is plastic as its own raw material. With this new plastics opportunity in mind, could plastic become its own solution? If the cornerstone of circular economy thinking is applied to plastics, if economic growth is decoupled from limited natural resource use, and if new ways are found to reuse plastic products already in existence the versatility of plastic may span new heights, create new value for businesses and protect and future-proof our planet.
A second important issue concerns the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment that was announced by UN Environment and the Ellen McArthur Foundation in October 2018 and that has more than 290 signatories. The commitment shows that many major public and private actors are now advocating for a circular economy model that closes the loop on plastics production and encourages innovative reuse. It is the view of these organizations that with the correct regulatory and policy boundary conditions, incentives and price signals, improved environmental consequences and increased economic growth can be concurrently achieved.
A third important issue are technological innovations that driving change. The era which we are entering, is defined largely by rapidly developing technological capabilities. The World Economic Forum and Accenture Strategy have identified three types of technologies that support the transition to a circular economy, which span the digital, physical, and biological realms. Sustainable innovation must be at the heart of the development of the technological capabilities that are fundamentally altering the world in which we live. A sustainable plastics innovation engine is already whirring into life, with many pioneering companies such as Banyan Nation, Evian & Loop Industries, Bureo and Perpetual Global using these Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to lead the charge in creating a new, waste-free plastics reality.
Aegis has made a name for itself, especially as solution provider by design for a circular economy. Could you explain your recyclable mono-material packaging and as well the O₂X™ High Barrier Coating production?
Adiguno: O₂X™ High Barrier Flexible Packaging Coating, it is a transparent liquid barrier coating with high barrier performance against gas. It is applied to different types of substrate to produce transparent flexible packaging and allows packaging to be recoverable without toxic emissions. A great advantage of the O₂X™ Barrier Coating is the high barrier performance that provides excellent gas, allowing shelf life to be extended as food content to stay fresh and crisp for a long period of time. Also, with its outstanding properties, O₂X™ enables companies to use less plastic to achieve the same barrier performance. This ease the recycling process as less plastic is needed to be sorted for recycling.
Aegis coating is a non-toxic water-based transparent liquid barrier coating. With no volatile solvents in the formulation, users have the freedom to use it with different types of material to create flexible packaging according to their need. It has been successfully applied to different materials such as PP and PE.
Applying O₂X™ is a simple process and can be done using a dry laminator. Corona or other special surface treatment may be required based on the different substrates. O₂X™ is easy to apply on substrates to produce flexible packaging. Typical applications include packaging for wafers, coffee, tomato paste, bakery products, fresh meat, rice/grains, frozen food, and convenience food.
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