When I grew up, I was taught that plastic packaging is bad for the environment. I have been laboring under that notion today.
Now, I've been told that I may have been wrong all this while. Or at least so, says Alvin Ang, the General Manager of plastic packaging manufacturer Thong Guan Industries.
“Plastics is one of the most environmentally friendly resources in the world that you can use,” he says.
Contrary to popular belief, he says plastics is 100 percent recyclable and if properly managed, has no end to its life-cycle.
"Mostly it’s down to littering and waste `mismanagement’. We do not have a very good system of managing waste"
And because of that he says, plastics has come to be the symbol of garbage. Dirty, unsustainable, bad for the environment. Unlike its alternatives such as paper bags which are held in higher regard.
Fair enough. But I also pointed out to him that no matter what, plastics is still non-biogradable.
“We do not subscribe to biodegradability. We believe that biodegradability is not green to the environment."
“Your mugs or your porcelain are not biodegradable as well. Why should you biodegrade plastic when the rest of the things are not biodegradable? If porcelain is biodegradable, we would not get China from the bottom of the sea that’s 500 years old,” he says.
Being the General Manager of Thong Guan, Alvin is also the great grandson of its founder.
The company has quite the story. Founded in the thick of World War II action in Kedah as a tea packaging company, it rose to prominence for the next 75 years, establishing household brands like 888 Tea & Coffee.
Today the company also owns restaurant chain Marché Mövenpick.
But the company’s focus today is manufacturing plastics. It is one of the biggest manufacturers of plastic packaging products in Malaysia and the world’s 10th largest producer of stretch films. It is also the largest exporter of garbage bags to Japan.
And they are just getting started. Last year, Thong Guan budgeted RM650mil to ramp up production by more than three fold in the next ten years.
What can the small businesses today learn from Thong Guan’s journey of “nothing to greatness”?
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