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Flexpak looks to hotel market for biodegradable plastic sales

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Representatives of Jamaica Manufacturers Association, from left, Executive Director Imega Breese-McNab and President Metry Seaga, are shown products made by Flexpak by company representatives Vincent Clarke, at right, and Uwe Kumst, at second right, during a tour of the plants operated by Flexpak and parent company Omni Industries Limited at Twickenham Park, Spanish Town, St Catherine, on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
An unnamed worker sorts plastic bags coming off the assembly line at Flexpak, duing a tour of the plant by members of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, at Twickenham Park, Spanish Town on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Plastics manufacturer Flexpak Limited is looking for market in the tourism sector for its biodegradable line of plastics, having itself long given the nod to the trend toward more green products.

The company began making biodegradable products in 2011 but has seen "very slow take up" of its more environment-friendly oxo-biodegradable bags, according to Technical Director Nigel Hoyow.

Flexpak is now looking to the hospitality sector to drive sales, he told the Financial Gleaner during a tour of the plant by the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association on Tuesday, hosted by Flexpak and its parent company, Omni Industries Limited.

"We are targeting those that have not bought into the idea from the beginning, like the hotels. The hotels have not been on board and I think they should be," the technical director said.

Flexpak makes plain and printed polyethylene bags and polyethylene rolls, among others and supplies packaging for manufacturers across many sectors such as food and beverage, meat packers and frozen treats.

Parent Omni Industries, which took over Thermoplastic Jamaica, manufactures PVC pipes and fittings, housewares, industrial packaging and corrugated sheets.

Flexpak has relaunched its oxo-biodegradable bags, to take advantage of the discussions around biodegradable products sparked a private motion brought by Government member Matthew Samuda, who proposed a ban on plastic bags and styrofoam.

After disposal, the oxo-biodegradable plastic disintegrates within six to 18 months, Hoyow said, noting that under ideal conditions the product break down even faster.

So far however, sales of its biodegradable line average just five per cent of the company's turnover, Hoyow said, adding such products have "not taken hold in Jamaica because of the lack of legislation."

Similar to producers, such as Wisynco Group, which launched a biodegradable styrofoam product, Hoyow said the real cost centre in developing biodegradable plastics, lies in the raw material, and would not significantly drive up the manufacturing cost.

The bigger challenge, he said, is in convincing end users to pay the five to 10 per cent more for the biodegradable product.

He also charged that Chinese imports are being dumped on the local market - dumping is where a product is sold for a lower price than it costs to manufacture - and said a complaint has been filed with the Jamaica Anti-Dumping & Subsidies Commission, he said.

Flexpak and Omni Industries operate from a nine-acre complex in St Catherine, incorporating 288,000 square feet of production space across separate factories.

Flexpak itself uses 20,000 square feet for its production area, and is roughly operating at 40 per cent of its capacity, according to Hoyow. The two companies employ 130.