HOW far would you go to protect Mother Nature?
Leonard Ho sold three of his residential properties and used the money to change his company’s business model.
The 49-year-old chief executive officer of Polyseed SSD Sdn Bhd invested more than RM10mil to fight climate change by tackling the plastic solid waste problem.
“I forked out this money as I believe in leaving a legacy. If we protect the planet today, it will benefit our children tomorrow,” said the father of four.
Polyseed has been around for 15 years and in its first decade, was involved in the manufacture of food packaging.
Aiming to inspire more to use biodegradable plastic, Polyseed SSD Sdn Bhd took a greener path and worked to create a positive change in society.
“I came to realise the adverse impact of conventional plastic on climate change during a conversation with my son, and knew something needed to be done.
“With that, Polyseed diverted its core operations to become a social enterprise in 2014.
“We believe we can impact the plastic industry by encouraging manufacturers to use bio and oxo-biodegradable plastic and making all plastic products degradable,” said Ho, pointing out that up to 50% of plastic waste in the world is from food packaging.
His social business enterprise model earned the company The Star Business Awards (SOBA) 2016 Best Green Initiative gold award.
While most people perceive plastic as harmful to nature, Ho pointed out that it is in fact a good material when properly handled and disposed.
Working in collaboration with social entrepreneur Sugianto Tan from Indonesia, Polyseed adopted two types of technology to convert conventional plastic into degradable plastic.
Additive-based oxo-biodegradable technology modifies plastic molecule structures to break down faster while biocomposting technology is derived from food sources such as corn and tapioca, explained Ho.
“Different technologies apply to different situations.
“For instance, growing corn to be made into biodegradable plastic is not a wise choice as land needs to be cleared for plantations and this adds to global warming, not forgetting there are many people who do not have enough food to eat.
“As such, food waste should ideally be used for biotech, but not all manufacturing machines can adapt to this technology unlike oxo-bio technology, which is suitable for all production machinery,” said Ho.
He pointed out it takes conventional plastic between 600 and 1,000 years to decompose.
For green products, the biodegradation process is between two and five years, including shelf-life, recycle duration and degrading time.
“When they end up in the landfill, the degradable plastic will become food for microbes,” he explained.
Ho said making all plastic degradable would depend on three main factors: affordability, easy accessibility and having a good product mix.
Polyseed offers green technology to manufacturers for a small fee to produce degradable plastic products.
“Most might think that green products are significantly more expensive, but this is not the case.
“It’s just a matter of adding the Oxium additive during the usual production process.
“In return, we buy 20% of their product capacity and sell them in the marketplace under our label, Nurture Nature.
“As we charge manufacturers only a small fee for our green technology, the cost is competitive with normal plastic products so people can afford green products at the same price.”
To promote green products, Polyseed leverages on chain stores and mini markets such as KK Mart, Hero Supermarket and Mr DIY to make Nurture Nature accessible to customers.
“We are also working with manufacturers to produce degradable shopping bags for large organisations such as MPH Bookstores, Tesco and Courts, and converting muffin bags and mineral water bottles from mynews.com.
Ho hopes more manufacturers and companies get involved in the Happy Earth Malaysia campaign initiated by Polyseed to encourage the use of green products to fight climate change by tackling the plastic solid waste problem.
To date, about 20 manufac-turers are supporting the campaign and 2,000 mini market and chain stores sell Nurture Nature products.
Ho said some unscrupulous parties put false product labelling to hike up the price, tarnishing the reputation of green products.
“End users can identify green products through touch and smell as biodegradable plastic tends to have a natural food smell, is not glossy and less crisp compared to conventional plastic,” he said.
Ho stressed that the government plays an important role in making the green transformation a success.
“Rather than fines and punishment, local authorities should reward stakeholders who participate in green campaigns,” he said.
He recalled being rejected after multiple meetings with a KL-based manufacturer on the free degradable additives for plastic production.
“The manufacturer’s reasoning was that adding the degradable additives was an unnecessary step as it wasn’t standard requirement in the industry,” said Ho, admitting that he sometimes feels disheartened by such setbacks.
He urged plastic manufac-turers to participate in this noble quest as it does not cost much.
“People are aware of environmental issues such as global warming and pollution and I believe with proper education, regulations and accessibility to these green products, we can make all plastic products degradable,” he said.
Looking forward, Ho aims to start food waste management in food courts so leftovers can be made into compost for fertiliser.