By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be the first in the world to convert tropical wood waste into bioplastic resin, an alternative for biodegrable products.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie Apdal said, the project is also one of the initiatives to go downstream on the oil palm and timber industry.
“This (bioplastic resin made of tropical wood waste), the first in the world, will be an alternative for biodegrable plastic.
“This is also one of the initiatives which I discussed with Prime Minister Tun Datuk Dr Mahathir Mohamad way back last year on how best we can realise this,” he said after witnessing a Momerandum of Understanding (MoU) signing between Benta Wawasan Sdn Bhd, Biosea Corporation Sdn Bhd and Lax Global Resources Sdn Bhd at the Sabah Government Administration Centre (PPKS).
The joint venture effort will be seeing Benta Wawasan Sdn Bhd as the asset owner, Biosea Corporation Sdn Bhd as the funder and investor, and Lax Global Resources Sdn Bhd as the circular bioeconomy coordinator (technology provider).
According to Shafie, Tawau is being looked into as the location for the project which will be commencing within two to three years’ time considering the time needed for the setting up of factories.
“I hope that we can realise this initiative to ensure that Malaysia is moving forward, particularly Sabah,” he expressed.
He said, the government aspires to contribute to reducing climate and environmental change, making sure that the world is moving towards green technology so that there will be no more plastic bottles and packaging that will eventually be a burden.
He asserted that the world is facing similar environmental pollution where plastic is the biggest contributor, affecting the marine life such as turtles that mistakenly consume plastic for food, as well as infecting them with diseases spread out due to plastic.
“A lot of money had to be spent by the city and district councils to compost plastic waste. If we have the ability to produce biodegradable product and food packaging, we could be of help towards making our surroundings a clean place.”
According to Shafie, he was made to understand that billions of ringgit are used to produce plastic food packaging alone, along with other plastic products, to fulfill the needs of various other industries in the world.
“If we could produce such products (biodegradable plastic made out of tropical wood waste), I am confident that this will be the new way forward for the world,” he said.
He pointed out that while the technology of making biodegradable plastic has been around, the materials used are either corn or tapioca only.
“Sabah will be the first one to use tropical wood waste… This is something really new.
“Our woodship can be converted into resin and that resin can be produced into biodegradable products such as bottles, plates, plastic bags, and even chopsticks,” he explained.
Shafie said the quality of the products will be as good and slightly handier than those made of ceramics.
“This is something that really caught me when I saw it (the product). I think this is where we need to move forward into since we have ample supplies of wood waste in Sabah.
“Sometimes the wood waste is burned, which then contributes to environmental pollution, so rather than letting it go like that, why don’t we utilise it since the technology is there?”
He also pointed out that the tropical wood waste is much better than corn and tapioca in terms of its durability and sustainability.
Initially, the investment for this project will be about RM1 billion.
“Overall, it will cost RM5 billion but over the years, not immediately,” he said, adding that the production capacity based on this project in 15 years will be able to produce about 10 million tonnes of biodegradable plastic resin.
It was also disclosed that existing plastic manufacturers would still be able to use the product with very little modification.
The chief minister, on the other hand, also assured that this new development coming into Sabah will not be affecting the wildlife in the state.