Malaysian eco-friendly, compostable food packaging

Fast forwarding another year into the pandemic, the plastic problem is only on the rise in the country. To help you assess the degree of its severity, Malaysians used 148,000 tons of plastic food packaging in 2020.

The good news, however, is that local startups have sprung up to try and fix this problem. An example would be Circlepac, which provides greener solutions for take-out packaging.

Launched much earlier in July 2019, Team Recycler is another startup tackling this responsibility to help reduce the plastic packaging problem in Malaysia.

Today, this sugarcane food packaging is one of two exclusive green packaging partners for GrabFood merchants, but Team Recycler did not actually start as a food packaging company.

A first idea they couldn’t afford

“When we started in January 2019, we had the idea of ​​providing composting services to big names like Nestlé, KFC, Jaya Grocer and GrabFood to turn food waste into agricultural composts”, Weng Kien and Priya, founders of Team Recycle, shared with Vulcan Post.

The idea did not take off due to the high investment and maintenance costs required for them to really have an impact. But as they chatted more with these target customers and realized the lingering problem of local plastic waste, they made the decision to pivot.

Supplying big boys like myBurgerLab and Soft Launch Cafe / Image Credit: myBurgerLab (left) and Soft Launch Cafe (right)

“We spent almost 5 months planning, researching, market testing and executing our eco-friendly food packaging plan. During this time, we have purchased over 100 different packaging products and met over 10 different manufacturers in China and Taiwan, ”they reflected on their R&D process.

Priya and Weng Kien examined stacks of samples and performed various stress tests with hot water and placed them in microwaves and freezers before settling for their current line of food packaging products. OEM sugarcane based.

Plastic reduction, but not yet plastic elimination

Currently 75% of their product line is made from sugar cane and offers 30 types of products including bowls, trays, clamshell food containers, wooden cutlery, mugs, cornstarch straws. , etc. The team said the sugarcane products break down within 6 months of elimination.

However, not all of their products are made entirely from biodegradable or compostable materials, as plastic is still used for the lids and lids of some containers. That’s because they haven’t yet found a way to replicate plastic’s properties of being lightweight, transparent, and durable that improve certain aspects of take-out and delivery.

Editor’s Note: Part of the above paragraph has been changed to reflect greater accuracy in reporting.

We still need plastic-free options for lids and lids / Image credit: TAF Meals (left) and Mr Wu Taiwan Restaurant (right)

However, Team Recycler does their due diligence to ensure that these plastics are 100% recyclable, which is why they only source from PET.

On the other hand, Circlepac is completely eliminating plastic lids, opting for its own from the same material as the containers.

Get GrabFood as a partner

The team credits their first-in-one advantage as the reason they partnered with GrabFood in February 2020. Today, their notable customers include The Owls Cafe, Soft Launch Cafe, myBurgerLab, Table & Apron, for n ‘ to name a few.

Merchants in the app can choose to use the services of Team Recycler, and the team said they get around 8-10 new customers per month as a result.

Aside from GrabFood merchants, they have also worked with non-F&B merchants like Top Catch Fisheries and Misteravo to pack fresh fish and fruit. During the pandemic, they also provided lunch boxes to several quarantine hotels in the Klang Valley.

“We would say the majority of our customers are still partially using our products, but we are working to convert them to fully utilize our products. “

Also convert fishmongers and fruit sellers / Image credit: Top Catch Fisheries (left) and Misteravo (right)

Halfway to RM 1 million in sales

“We invested a considerable amount in our packaging business when we started to implement everything on May 12, 2020 and were already profitable in nine months,” explained the duo.

Since then, they have said that their monthly income has been growing steadily and that they are now halfway to reaching their first revenue target of RM 1 million by December 2021. After that, Penang and Johor are where they envision expansion.

Although it seems they have settled into their operations, Priya and Weng Kien are now finding that one thing that keeps them from sleeping at night is how they will face an increase in demand that has doubled or tripled since the pandemic. Because the prices of raw materials and shipping costs have also increased significantly, it is more worrying.

“It also took longer to import our products due to port congestion and vessel space limitations due to the pandemic. Fortunately, we have been able to minimize our buffer stocks and our customers are also understanding. “

From container to compost in 6 months / Image credit: Table & Apron (left) and Li Restaurant (right)

Higher MOQ for their products

While there are many players when it comes to biodegradable packaging, compostable packaging is still quite rare, which we have only found so far only Circlepac and Team Recycler claiming to be actively creating.

Did you know: While biodegradable items refer to any material that breaks down and decomposes in the environment, compostable products are specifically organic material that decomposes, with the end product having many beneficial uses including fertilization and ‘improvement of soil health.

Nature path

Taking their containers for comparison, 100 pieces of a 2-compartment container from Circlepac would cost 89 RM, while 300 pieces from a 2-compartment container from Team Recycler would cost 318 RM. Doing the math, a part of Circlepac costs 0.89 RM, while a part of Team Recycler costs 1.06 RM.

The price difference is not too marked, but there appears to be a difference in the MOQ for their products, with Circlepac being lower in the majority of its offerings.

Today, Team Recycler has served more than 170 hotels, restaurants, cafes and home chefs with their sugar cane products, but the team knows this is only the beginning of their mission.

Like Circlepac, they are also looking to offer a closed-loop composting service (where they collect used packaging for composting) on ​​the road, as well as doing R&D to turn edible fruit coatings into a product that replaces the plastic and wax.

  • You can read more about Team Recycler here.
  • You can read more about the more eco-friendly startups we’ve covered. here.

Image Credit Featured: Weng Kien and Priya, Founders of Team Recycler

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