Biodegradable vs Biocompostable

The next level of discussion on proper waste disposal, following the ban on plastics lesser than 50 microns, is the battle between biodegradable and biocompostable packaging.

By Frederica Elbourne, Deputy Managing Editor Business, Fiji Sun – 18 January 2020

Biocompostable material may be the next big thing for Fiji following the implementation of a national ban on plastics thinner than 50 microns.

Rising to the challenge is Star Printery as it aspires to meet its own personal goal of making environmentally friendly products.

“We are now being told that plastics thicker than 50 microns is fine to be sold and used, however this is still plastic and still a problem,” director Sandeep Chauhan said.

Star Printery company director Sandeep Chauhan. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

Star Printery in paper-based products

In December last year, Star Printery invested in a $5 million facility that makes paper-based products.

Mr Chauhan said it was a misnomer to conclude that while Fiji was doing away with plastics, trees were being cut down for paper-based products.

“What’s contributing more to emissions is not the absence of trees as it is the increase in livestock,” he said.

Livestock increase was reflected in man’s growing need to consume such produce, Mr Chauhan said.

“That, in fact, is adding more to your carbon footprint, as opposed to the paper.”

Paper-based production added to emission on a very minut scale, he said.

Plastic was introduced in the early 1900s as a cheap alternative to glass packaging.

“Look at the cost we are paying now, and the generations to come that will pay for the plastic menace that we have – what would we rather have?

“Nobody talks about that, because you and I aren’t going to pay for it, our children will.”

The onus was on paper making business to replant on land they have cleared, Mr Chauhan pointed out.

He said the plastic problem was born of the current generation.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s a problem from our fathers or forefathers generation because those people were still using glass bottles. 

They were recycling until we reached the industrial stage.”

Evolution’s woes were born from cheaper alternatives, Mr Chauhan said. He called for a serious recycling programme.

Biodegradeable materials could be the next big thing for Star Printery. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

“Bio compostable products come with a price because of the intensive processes involved in the breakdown of raw material in the manufacturing stage.”

Sandeep Chauhan – Company Director, Star Printery

Star Printery’s Green Campaign 

“At some point, the responsibility is going to come to the individuals. 

“We can’t tell the government to that initiative although the government needs to make the amenities accessible to us, which are proper recycling bins.”

Mr Chauhan said Star Printery’s green campaign began 12 years ago when the company began its gradual change within the printing processes to switch to vegetable oil.

“It’s a bit expensive, but given the advantage we had, we could afford to do that and bear the cost for the sake right of the environment.

“We changed slowly, because we couldn’t change the entire process overnight given the equipment we had.”

Star Printery went a step further to deal with certified and responsible suppliers who did not chop trees to leave the land barren, and practitioners of chemical- free processes.

“They plant trees for the purpose of cultivating it for paper production, while continuing to plant on land it cleared. 

“It’s a cycle,” Mr Chauhan said.

Star Printery’s recyclable range of packaging products is scheduled for roll out in the next seven months, he said.

He said products manufactured by Star Printery were recyclable.

The range of paper-based products Star Printery is working on will have a bigger market for its leak proof quality.

Star Printery invested in a $5million printing facility that makes paper-based table ware. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

Business Performance

“With these products, we’re hoping people will become more aware.”

Mr Chauhan expects the market to deliver better alternatives in the next six months.

“Biodegradable is still plastic,” Mr Chauhan said.

While its takes years to break down, it remains a threat to marine ecology.

Mr Chauhan said biocompostable items were made of natural material that decomposed within months.

“Biocompostable products come with a price because of the intensive processes involved in the breakdown of raw material in the manufacturing stage,” he said.

“As with anything, as time goes, as the production ramps up, the prices should come down, hopefully,” Mr Chauhan said.

Prior to December 1, 2019 there was no talk about 50 microns, he said. 

Wet goods will still require durable and sustained packing, Mr Chauhan said.

He said the question of wet goods was isolated and different.

Plastic is still permitted albout it has to be thicker than 50 microns.

“So you’re still limiting size as opposed to using maybe 100,000 plastic bags a year. 

“You’re cutting it down to maybe 20,000. 

“It is still reducing the number of plastic. 

“The mindset needs to change.”