Thanks to both innovation and investment—and a little help from the local flora—Thailand is embracing green technology in some unexpected ways. Like many developing countries, Thailand is facing a dilemma: how to address growing energy needs and consumption without sacrificing economic growth. To that end, Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is looking to bio-based solutions, taking advantage of a thriving agriculture industry by reusing the waste it produces—and in the process, potentially creating a green-tech sector other nations can emulate. The EEC was set up by the Thai government to orchestrate investments in such futuristic industries as next-generation cars, agriculture and biotechnology, robotics, biofuels and biochemical, among others.
To replace potentially harmful one-use products like plastic bags and food containers, the EEC is turning to bioplastics and materials derived from local plant products like cassava starch or bamboo scraps from chopstick factories to manufacture new options that decompose completely after a few weeks. International bioplastic producer Corbion recently announced an expansion of their presence in Thailand with an additional $100 million investment, including a new facility in Rayong set to open in 2018 that will produce poly-lactic-acid (PLA), a bioplastic polymer made from sugar cane.
“The market for PLA is growing some 15 to 20 percent per year, driven by consumers that want to have plastic products that are more sustainable than the oil-based plastics,” said Francois de Bie, marketing director for bioplastics at Corbion, in a recent interview. “PLA has a low carbon footprint and helps to reduce plastics pollution.”
As De Bie noted, “The packaging is often also the last thing a consumer sees of the product they purchased. As more and more consumers do not want to create waste, they are interested to see sustainable bioplastic packaging.” The EEC has a clear eye to ensure foreign investment isn’t stymied by strict government laws. According to their website, “more than one hundred Thai laws and regulations will be amended or suspended to facilitate foreign investment.” With this new push for investment in green tech through business-friendly initiatives providing a huge economic boost, Thailand stands poised to make the most of its eco-friendly future. Clearly, it’s a growth industry in more ways than one.