The year 2015 was reported as the hottest year on historical record, breaking a mark that had been set only a year prior. Ever since the United Nations declared climate change as a crisis in 1988, the planet has suffered severe landscape-altering changes due to drastic fluctuations in climate.
Despite very clear signs, there are those in high positions of authority that still choose to doubt the reality of the changes taking place. It then comes down to the dedicated individuals who are taking the matter of saving the planet into their own hands. Indonesia Tatler talks to local entrepreneur Sugianto Tandio about his quest to replace plastic.
Sugianto Tandio is the second-generation leader of packaging production manufacturer PT Tirta Marta. Ever since taking over the reins from his father-in-law, Tandio has focused a large part of the company’s resources on developing and producing environmentally conscious biodegradable packaging. Tandio invested a decade of time and money into researching and development. The fruits of the company’s decade of labour are Ecoplas, a biodegradable plastic made from tapioca, and Oxium, an additive that helps plastics degrade through oxidation.
Tandio was awarded the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. Tandio identified overconsumption and overproduction as the leading causes in the devastation inflicted on the environment. He urged companies and manufacturers to get involved in the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), a voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labelling.
The GEN label is a recognised symbol of environmentally friendly products produced by environmentally conscious companies. Tandio strongly believes that sustainable consumption and production is the key to saving the planet.
For the past 30-40 years, the world has subscribed to the three Rs of dealing with waste: reduce, reuse and recycle. While these simple processes are a good start and should continue to be upheld, Tandio says that they do not solve the end-of-life problem that plastics create. This process only delays the inevitable outcome of most plastic waste: incineration or use as landfill. He suggested a fourth R be added to the process: return, as in return to earth. With the products that his company has developed, he aims to complete the process by completely breaking down plastic at a much faster pace.
Tandio is well on course to creating a greener world. Ecoplas and Oxium have been adopted by 90 per cent all modern shops and markets in Indonesia. The numbers are very encouraging as they show that many people have become aware, and care about the environment. In addition to plastic bags, Tandio is also working on around 15 different applications, saying that they have only begun to scratch the surface.
“There are hundreds of different green technologies available. None of them is perfect yet; they need to be applied correctly to achieve their maximum potential,” said Tandio.
The past five years have also seen significant growth in the development of environmentally friendly “Bioplastics”. However, they only represent 0.7 per cent of the 300 million tonnes of plastics produced every year. Tandio’s green technology is not only great alternatives to plastic bags, they are also very affordable. As long as cost is still a big factor, people will be averse to change.
“If it is all still being done for money, then people will take much longer to change. The technology and material for alternatives have been available since the 1950s, yet we are only seeing slight changes now,” said Tandio.