Wisynco to introduce biodegradable foam product today
Local manufacturers of the Sweet line of synthetic packaging products, Wisynco Limited, is today expected to announce a major shift in its operations — a move away from polystyrene-only food containers to a biodegradable alternative it has branded eco-foam.
The new product, the company said, should break down into non-toxic derivatives of the input within nine months to five years.
CEO William Mahfood told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that eco-foam is produced by putting a chemical additive in polystyrene, the main component of styrofoam, which is not biodegradable. He, however, declined to name the additive, fearing he would give too much away ahead of today’s launch which is scheduled for the company’s Lakes Pen head office at 10:00 am.
"After about two years of research, we identified a company that had a chemical additive which makes the finished product biodegradable. It allows for the product to go into the environment and, through natural degradation, turn into its natural, non-toxic elements — water, co2, methane, oxygen, and some humus material, which is like dirt," he explained.
The move is the latest in a string of environmentally conscious initiatives the company has implemented over the years. Just last year, in the wake of a fire which razed its warehouses and amidst talk of a ban on plastics and styrofoam, Wisynco began decreasing the amount of polystyrene it used to make each styrofoam product.
Also, the manufacturing and distributorship is a partner in Recycling Partners of Jamaica, and it launched Wisynco Eco, a group-wide committee that promotes sustainable practices such as recycling and tree planting.
"When we first started manufacturing plastic bottles, we started a recycling company — Recycle for Life — and then subsequently, when the Government introduced environment levies, we discontinued the recycling. Today, we have gone back into recycling with a joint venture with the Government and have also done a number of other things to not only minimise our environmental footprint, but our carbon footprint as well, through solar installations, a major wastewater treatment plant..., and more recently, about four years ago, we took a decision at the board level to implement an environmental commitee in the group to look at ways that we could be as environmentally friendly as we could be as a company," Mahfood said.
That, according to the Wisynco CEO, led the company to reduce the volume of plastics it uses in its production. For one thing, it discontinued the manufacturing of plastic bags, and reduced the volume of plastic that goes into the Wata brand of beverage bottles.
"But we still had the styrofoam and these are not biodegradable either, so we had to look at alternative materials or find ways to minimise the damage to the environment," he told the Observer.
"We identified plant-based materials which would allow us to produce a biodegradable and compostable type of plastic, but when we did the analysis, we realised that it was very expensive and was not something that would be readily accepted in the local market," he continued.
Wisynco turned its sights instead to a chemical process that would give the required effect.
Mahfood said production of its lunch boxes and disposable plates using the new technology has already begun, with 100 per cent conversion expected by March or April of this year.