1 March 2001
Products Minus Pollution(HKTDC Packaging, Vol 01,2001)
Products Minus Pollution
Quality Equipment Crucial
PLASTIC noodle cups and styrofoam lunch boxes may not appear to create much pollution, but on the Chinese mainland alone up to 10 billion pieces of such "white" food-packaging materials are thrown away each year.
To combat this problem on the mainland and overseas, Foshan Fu Lee Environmental Protection Tableware Co Ltd - established in 1998 as part of the 18-year-old holding company Fu Lee (Asia) Ltd - has come up with the idea of biodegradable, disposable tableware mainly for food stalls, supermarkets and convenience stores.
Composed of 70% agricultural fibre residue and 30% food grade additives, Foshan Fu Lee's resulting bowls, boxes and trays hold noodles, fresh fish and meat or vegetables. Soon the company will place partition lunch boxes on the market.
While most of these products are light brown, their natural colour, the colour can be changed by alternating food additives. The company's products are priced more competitively than paper products.
"Our prices should decrease as production capacity rises," says marketing manager Eric Tang. Minimum order is one TEU, and delivery time is after 30 days.
Although rice husk and bagasse from Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland are the main agricultural fibres Foshan Fu Lee uses, the company intends to start working with wheat stalk from the north.
Foshan Fu Lee is targeting markets throughout Asia, Europe and the US. "We spent the past two years focusing on research and development. Now we are ready to target overseas markets," says Tang. The company has 15 engineers on its research team.
Daily output recently rose to 100,000 pieces. Output will reach 300,000 pieces by the end of 2001 when production lines achieve maximum capacity. Unlike most companies, higher production for Foshan Fu Lee does not mean more pollution.
"There is absolutely no pollution or by-product created in our manufacturing process," says Tang. Materials are compostable and can be used as fertiliser. Some products, including fast-food trays, start decomposing within days after use. For disposable products that must last considerably longer, inorganic ingredients and thicker coating are employed.
Although the concept of disposable tableware is new, there is already competition. "Other companies mostly use pulp moulding, which means chopping down wood and creating pollution," says Tang. Among other advantages, he cites the strong heat and water resistance of Foshan Fu Lee products.
The company's wide-ranging operations include a 20,000-square-metre factory with 150 workers in Guangdong, a headquarters and warehouse in Hong Kong, and offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore.
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Foshan Fu Lee Environmental Protection Tableware Co Ltd
Unit B, 10/F, 17 Wang Chiu Rd
Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong
IN business, as in life, crawling precedes walking. After advancing through the crawling stage, packaging company Long Choi (HK) Ltd is ready to walk steadily into overseas markets. Trade fairs and exhibitions create a stage upon which the company promotes its products.
In the year 2000, Long Choi, which previously focused on the Chinese mainland, targeted Hong Kong. For 2001, the eight-year-old enterprise has adjusted its sights to include Japan and the US.
Long Choi's product range features packaging for food items, detergents, cosmetics, pesticides and medical items. Its main styles are three-side-seal bags, centre-seal bags, gusset bags and stand-up pouches. Monthly production stands at 150 metric tonnes.
While most packaging materials created by Long Choi come from customers' designs, about 30% of the company's output is created by its own six-member design team. Yet manager Iris Lam says the products from customers' designs are harder to create.
"A customer's design is on paper, and it can be difficult to reproduce the exact same colours on plastic. If the printing is unsuccessful, we might waste 100-200 metres of plastic at a time," she explains.
Therefore, the strictest part of QC procedures involves the temperature stage. For each production batch, careful checking ensures that temperature for sealing the plastic is set at 140 degrees Celsius.
According to Lam, Long Choi avoids wasting materials and outpaces the competition by using quality equipment. The company's 1,500-square-metre factory in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland boasts an eight-colour, all-auto intaglio press; an all-auto, dry-compound machine; a high-speed cutting machine; and an all-auto, three-edges sealing machine.
"As in any industry, there are many brand names, but we chose high-quality Japanese equipment, as opposed to machines from Germany or Italy, because Japan is closer to Hong Kong," Lam says.
Repairing machines quickly also promotes fast service, a factor in which Long Choi takes pride. "When a customer wants extra-fast delivery, we can provide it," says Lam. Standard delivery time for a minimum order of 10,000 square metres is 30 days, but for repeat orders this goes as low as 15 days.
Aside from speedy delivery, Long Choi offers advice on the best plastic to use for particular products. It works mainly with BOPP, ideal for storing goods at low temperatures, plus highly transparent CPP, and PE. The FOB Hong Kong price for BOPP or PE is US$0.26 per square metre.
A maximum of eight colours can be ordered. Buyers can request only one colour, but prices are based on a minimum selection of three colours. "The more colours we use, the easier for the design to come out," says Lam.
For materials, Long Choi turns to South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia, where prices for plastic film are extremely competitive. "By saving money this way, we can afford to buy more quality equipment."
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Long Choi (HK) Ltd
Unit 1001, 10/F, Gee Tuck Bldg
16-20 Bonham Strand East
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
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