Bioplastics Gaining Traction in Indonesia

Bioplastics may be the answer to tackle the plastic problem that is plaguing the world’s environment, especially the planet’s oceans, and Asean can be the prime mover of this effort.

With the global plastic industry considering alternatives, the use of sustainable materials like plants makes bioplastics more earth-friendly, said the Asean Post.

“Bioplastic is a plant-based alternative made from corn starch, potato, soy protein and cellulose.

“Perceived to be environmentally friendly and non-toxic, bioplastics is extensively used to make shopping bags, packaging and cutlery,” said the portal.

Asean member countries have started the move for alternatives to plastic more urgent by holding each member-state accountable through the Asean Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris signed last year, said Channelnewsasia.

“In some instances, this can simply mean reverting to traditional Southeast Asian methods such as banana leaf plates.

“An ice-cream vendor in Jakarta has gone a step further by pioneering edible seaweed cups for ice cream,” said the portal.

In Thailand, the agriculture industry in the Eastern Economic Corridor is turning to bioplastics from local plant products like cassava starch and sugarcane.

Seaweed is another alternative material for bioplastics production, with Indonesian start-up Evoware producing containers made from farmed seaweed.

Despite the good news about bioplastics, unscrupulous plastic manufacturers have taken advantage by passing off fake plastic bags as 100 per cent biodegradable.

However, there are environmental issues with the cultivation of plants for bioplastics.

Among them are pollution from fertilisers and pesticides, and diversion from food production when land for agriculture is limited, said the Asean Post.

However, the future of the bioplastics market in Southeast Asia is bright and promising.

Market data compiled by research firm Nova Institute found that the global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from 2.11 million tonnes in 2018, to about 2.62 metric tonnes in 2023.

Presently, bioplastics represent less than one per cent of the global market, but they are expected to grow by 20 to 30 per cent in the next few years.

Nevertheless, the plastic waste problem will take time to eradicate. More than half of the eight million tonnes of plastic waste that end up in oceans come from five countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, according to a 2017 report from environment group Ocean Conservancy.

But, as public attitude towards plastic usage begins to change, things are getting better, according to a recent survey by Global Data.

It found that 49 per cent of 3,248 respondents from five Asean economies indicated their food choices were often influenced by how ethical, environmentally-friendly or socially-responsible the products were manufactured.


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Bioplastics gaining traction in Indonesia

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