‘First-of-its-kind’: Agthia produces Middle East’s first plant-based packaging
The bioplastic material is polylactic acid (PLA) and is said to be obtained from 100% plant sources - The bottle itself is derived from corn sugars, and the cap from fermented sugar cane.
In an interview with FoodNavigator-Asia, Tariq Ahmed Al Wahedi, Chief Executive Officer at Agthia Group P.J.S.C. said: “It does not contain any petroleum or its by-products, and when composted, it returns to the environment (as soil) within 80 days.”
This means that the packaging is also 100% biodegradable.
From an environmental and sustainability perspective, the Al Ain Plant Bottle uses 60% less energy consumption during the manufacturing process, saves over 50% in terms of non-renewable energy and reduces 60% of CO2 emissions over other options.
Al Wahedi explained the process: “It begins by taking plant-based sources from which ethanol is extracted. This is then converted into a 100% plant resin to produce the bottles.”
He said this innovation sets a benchmark in sustainable packaging.
The packaging was developed in its packaging R&D technology centre in Al Ain, which was opened in August last year to develop more efficient and sustainable packaging technologies in UAE and make a positive impact on the food and beverages industry.
While there are other compostable packaging options in the region, Al Wahedi said: “This packaging is the first-of-its-kind, created after vigorous work R&D to identify a packaging solution that has the least environmental impact when compared to the other options on the market.”
Consumer and industry demands
He added that the F&B industry has witnessed a shift in consumer demands as they look for more sustainable and environmentally friendly choices. “Consumers are well informed and are increasingly choosing products and services that help decrease their environmental footprint and that are environmentally friendly.”
Citing data from the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD), Al Wahedi also revealed that more than 900,000 metric tonnes of plastic resin are used annually, 45% in consumer packaging and 5% in consumer goods in Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone.
“These factors, among others, have motivated us to provide more sustainable solutions through our innovative products and services,” he said.
Al Wahedi said the project is still in its early phase, but Agthia hopes to apply the packaging across its other products eventually.
The Al Ain Plant Bottle will first be available in mid-2020 for UAE’s food service industry. “We will run the full end-to-end project first with selected partners and customers such as hotels and airports. Once that phase is complete, we will take the required next steps on this pioneering initiative.”
Agthia is also working on expanding its distribution channels. “Our goal is to be number one in water in the region. We are growing in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, and we are exploring options to distribute on an international level.”
Currently, the company sells one billion litres of water annually in the UAE, or 50 million cases. Al Wahedi said the company plans to eventually replace 5% of its bottled water packaging with PLA by 2021.
Around 99% of Agthia’s packaging is recyclable and 100% of its secondary packaging across all categories is oxo-biodegradable.
The firm also hopes to achieve zero landfill waste by 2020, as well as using 10% of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) made from recycled sources by 2021.