Flexpak Goes Green

Plastics manufacturer reintroduces biodegradable bags

BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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Limited, a major player in the manufacturing of plastic packagaging in Jamaica, last week unveiled a line of oxo-biodegradable plastic bags at its head-quarters in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.

"We think we have found a solution for plastic bags not to be a major problem in this country, and it is a fairly simple solution to a very difficult problem," said Uwe Kumst, chairman of Flexpak’s parent company Omni Industries.

The bags are produced with the help of an additive mixed with the polyethylene resin used as the base ingredient.

Nigel Hoyow, technical director at Flexpak Limited, noted that the time frame for the bags to biodegrade is dependent on client demand.

"The agriculture industry, for instance, would want it in a lesser time frame of perhaps three to six months. The breakdown period can vary up to three to four years depending on how you want it to perform. Currently, our bags will start to degrade six months after being disposed of, and up to 12-18 months in not so optimum conditions," said Hoyow.

The breakdown will also depend on the method of disposal as well as surrounding temperature.

Flexpak’s announcement follows a similar move by styrofoam product manufacturer Wisynco, which recently unveiled a biodegradable version of its disposable food containers. It also comes in the wake of impending legislation to ban the importation and use of styrofoam products and single-use plastic bags, as well as what the company says is an increased demand for biodegradable products.

Hoyow told the Jamaica Observer that Flexpak has been manufacturing biodegradable products since 2011, but they didn’t do as well as was expected as a result of lack of legislation.

"If we do not legislate it, the public is going to use the cheaper options," he said.

The technical director, while noting that the biodegradable product does not incur more physical labour, said it incurs an increase in the cost of raw material by five to 10 per cent that will be transferred to the customer.

Government Senator Matthew Samuda, who has led calls in the Parliament for more environmentally friendly products in the manufacturing sector, noted that the increase customers will now have to pay for biodegradable products should not be an issue because everyone desires an environment that is clean, sustainable and friendly to business.

"What you see here today from Flexpak is a move towards that sort of sustainable development," he said.

Samuda said: "The first discussion with everything that we do in this country can’t always be around price. If we are offering products that are better, that is certainly a better initiative or a better option because of the biodegradable nature. We don’t have an irresponsible marketplace in Jamaica. I believe people are getting more sophisticated in the choices that they make, and if we give them the options that suit our environmental rules, and that suit the need of capital to make profit, we will find that we are not necessarily racing to the bottom by the way of price cuts and that sort of thing."

In addition to that, he said that there will soon be legislative support for manufacturers who produce biodegradable materials, especially of single-use plastic bags and styrofoam-type material.

"There will come a time when it won’t be so much of an option for biodegradable material, certainly not at the point of entrance at ports. We will work with manufacturers to curtail the non-biodegradable material from entering the market," Samuda added.

President of Jamaica Manufacturers Association Metry Seaga said that the legislative changes would benefit the country in the long run.

"Manufacturers have to put roots down in Jamaica. We are one of the few sectors that have to put the roots down in the ground. We buy machinery, equipment and plant, and have big spaces and employ a lot of people, and it is very disheartening when companies or individuals can just bring a container or two or three every week of a product that they are buying that is being permitted into the market that is substandard without any legislation to ensure the quality to the public; that is not just how our economy will grow," Seaga said.

Flexpak Limited has been in operation since 1999 and is currently the only local manufacturer of plain and printed vacuum and metallic laminated printed bags, pouches and rolls. Its parent company manufactures PVC pipes and fittings, house-ware, industrial packaging, and corrugated sheets.






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