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  • Writer's pictureKrisakorn Sukavejvorakit, Ph.D.

Big Market Opportunitiesfor PET from Focusing on Green Technologies and Save Costs

In the global markets, PET continues to enjoy more substantial growth than any other type of plastic packaging. Part of the reason comes from accelerating demands on PET consumption in the food and beverage industries. According to the survey of Kasikorn research center, beverage consumers are using more PET plastics as demonstrated by the 10% growth of beverage consumption in Thailand. 70% of all beverages use PET for the packaging containers.

Mr. Krisakorn Sukavejworakit, General Manager, Pathanasuk Capital Co., Ltd. (Plaz-Tek Group) stated that the reason that PET bottles have become so popular is due to the material's ability to be recycled and the fact that it is: transparent (so that products

inside can be seen through the bottle), lightweight, easily shipped by different methods, tough, able to better maintain products inside the container (since it can be perforated) and it can be formed into various shapes and configurations. The company is one of the first movers who converted from glass to PET bottles. The bottles are used in products like foods and medicines such as jars that are used to contain cookies and breads as well as sauce bottles. Moreover, Plaz-Tek was exclusively selected to be one of the PET bottle makers who produce kid-safe PET jars, for containing children toys, which are exported to European

markets. At the same time, the company also takes Made-to-Order requests from customers depending the customerûs product specifications and requirements. Going Green is a Major

Going Green is a Major Trend

Today, there are various types of PET production technologies which are aimed towards environmental friendliness and production cost reductions. Lightweight bottles are designed by changing bottle structures with thinner plastics and a resulting lighter weight (because the plasticûs density is the same). Biodegradable bottles (also called fertilizer packaging) are designed so that the bottles could be converted to fertilizers after being discarded. Instead of having to be sorted before being sent into recycle processing, the bottle can be buried underground just like the traditional waste management method. This helps keep the waste management cost low and is environmentally friendly.

The Medium Fill PET Bottle combines the outstanding features of the Hot Fill Bottle and the Aseptic Fill Bottle which result in these following properties: tough, easily formed and heat tolerant up to 70 °C. The bottle can be used to contain various types of products including beverages and seasoning sauces. The medium fill bottle was designed by having the idea of being lightweight and by considering the structural design to increase the productûs strength. Many companies in Thailand have started to use the medium fill bottles. Organizations that are involved with this product development are: Plaz-Tek, Kasetsart University and King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.

One of the technologies that has drawn attention from different countries is the density reduction technology. The concept of the technology is to reduce polymer density but still maintain the bottle's structure and outside appearance. A multilayer technology is used in conjunction with the density reduction technology to reduce the density of the bottles. The process starts with blowing multiple layers of raw materials then laminating them all together. Manufacturers are able to specify the rawmaterials used in each layer. For the inner layer of the plastic bottle, food contact grade plastics are popularly used due to health safety issues. For the middle layer(s), recycled plastics are generally used to cut costs.

A Big Investment on a New Export-Oriented Production Facility that Focuses on High-end Technologies

Mr. Krisakorn also said that the business direction of PET bottles is still heading toward the light weight bottle concept due to the benefits of reducing global resource consumption and production costs. To keep up with the pace of worldwide packaging development, the company develops new production technologies like Light Weight Bottles as discussed earlier. The new technology uses software that enables the design of 3 dimensional features in the bottles. Currently, Ready to Drink bottles (RTD) made by the company weight only 20.4 grams, 30% down from the original weight of 30 grams. This product progress happened within only a 5 year production timeframe.

In conjunction with the going green trend, Plaz-Tek is biodegradable and Bottle to Bottle Recyclable. With the current situation of PET bottles, used PET bottles can be made into fibers but not new bottles. The reason has to do with the difficulty of categorizing and sorting through bottles that can be hot or aseptic filled. However, the medium fill bottles can be easily recycled. This project is still under the operation of technology invest-

ments. To make a new bottle, new plastic resins will be mixed with recycled plastic resins which currently account for up to 50-70% of the total amount of the 2 plastic resins combined.

The density reduction technology cannot be used to mass produce bottles and this concept is still under development. However, multilayer bottles have been made and exported into European countries. The multilayer bottle is not widely used in Thailand since there is not much demand for product longevity. Most of bottle products do not stay on shelves for a long time. Compared to conventional bottles that can store products for 6 month, the multilayer bottles can store products as long as 2 years because gas barriers are injected into the middle layers of the plastics.

"Plaz-Tek has planned to start expanding production capacity by the end of this year. The new plant, covering an area around 17,500 square meters, manufactures goods for export by using various production technologies such as Weight Bottles, Multilayer Bottles, Medium Fill PET Bottles, Biodegradable Bottles, Density Reduction Technology and Light Weight Technology (in making plastic jars). This plant is anticipated to start its production by the end of this year. As far as co-production development (with customers) is concerned, Plaz-Tek carefully selects technologies that are appropriate with each product in order to satisfy customerûs needs. The idea is to maximize production efficiency while minimizing production costs and to use up-to-date production technologies and raw materials."

For the business model that is best suited with Thailand's industrial environment, Plaz-Tek believes that SMEs clusters are supposed to work through one-stop reference sources, provide a stable business environment as well as generate industrial network development as a key competitiveness in the world markets. Some of the countries that have successfully implemented this business model are South Korea, Japan, China and countries that belong in the European Union. Other business policies used by Plaz-Tek include network development, technology transfer and know-how contribution. Some of the executives from

Plaz-Tek were appointed as advisors for the Ministry of Industry to support projects related to entrepreneur development to produce merchandise. Others executives were selected to be local export assistants who are in charge of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Europe. In addition to this, advisors who work in Mahidol University for the entrepreneurship and innovation projects also came from Plaz-Tek.

This is a good example entrepreneurs should continue to make progress in delivering new waves of production growth and create innovation by combining new knowledge with expertise accumulated over 30 years. Plaz-Tek is willing to transfer the knowledge to entrepreneurs via network development programs to make Thailand become a global manufacturing base in food and beverage products.

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