THAILAND: Avitez spouts first PLA bottle factory in Asean

The Bangkok-based Avitez Ltd has already manufactured the bottles in China using biopolylactic acid (PLA) derived from 100% corn. The bioplastic is made with technology and materials imported from the US.

Avitez was founded late last year by three partners including the Irish national Emer Gannon, now the company's sales and marketing director.

The company is scheduled to start manufacturing the bottles in Thailand in a few months. In addition to making PLA water bottles, it will fill them with Thai mineral water and sell them.

The Thai subsidiary is named Reangwa, and its manufacturing facility is in Chachoengsao's Bang Pakong district. Initial production is slated at 15,000 bottles per month.

"Our projection is that in six months, output will reach 300,000 bottles," said Mrs Gannon.

Currently, most 100%-PLA bottles are made in the US and Italy, with some small companies in Australia and New Zealand. The mineral water is sourced from the Thai-Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi province.

PLA bottles cost 3-4 times more than those made from petroleum-based plastics, she said.

A joint venture between PTT Plc and the US-based Nature Works will see the creation of a US$150-million PLA plant in Thailand in 2015. As a result, Avitez will be able to buy cassava-based PLA resins from the facility, hopefully reducing costs, said Mrs Gannon.

"Then our product will be 100% made in Thailand, supporting the government's green economy policy," she said.

Launched in June with the first delivery in August, Avitez mineral water is now available at five-star hotels and restaurants including the Sheraton, Westin, Kempinski and Le Me{aac}ridien hotels under Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide; the Anantara hotels on Sathon Road and in
Hua Hin, Phuket and Chiang Rai; and the Plaza Athenee and Erawan hotels in Bangkok.

"The market is very niche at the moment, but I think the demand for eco-friendly products has been tremendous, so we expect the volume will grow greatly in the coming months," she said.

Avitez also sells to other Starwood chains outside Thailand and is considering the Hong Kong, Macau and Maldives markets.

The company is also in talks with the non-profit Thailand Institute of Packaging and Recycling Management for a Sustainable Environment to make Avitez available on Koh Samui, she said.

Avitez sells 350 and 500 millilitre bottles but plans to introduce 750-ml bottles soon, said Mrs Gannon.

The name Avitez is a play on words, meaning "to live", as the plants grown to produce Avitez bottles consume greenhouse gases.

Petroleum-based plastic bottles take up to 1,000 years to decompose, but Avitez bottles take just 80 days when industrially composed.

Plant-based bottles produce 60% less greenhouse gases and use 50% less fossil fuels in production, she said.

"Some 24 Avitez bottles save approximately one litre of oil," said Mrs Gannon, pointing out that 100%-PLA plastic can be recycled again and again to make the same quality bottle.

The label is printed directly onto the bottle, reducing the use of plastics.

As the firm delivers fresh bottles, Avitez will collect the used ones and send them to recycling plants, Mrs Gannon added.

Source: Daily "Bangkok Post", Bangkok; 24 Oct 2012

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)