Masafi introduces plastic that degrades in two years

The company, a leading bottled water company in the region, hopes to help clean up the UAE with biodegradable water bottles.

Fujairah, 10th March 2010.  The 330 ml filling area.  At the Masafi Company LLC.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)
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RAS AL KHAIMAH // Masafi, one of the leading bottled water companies in the region, is aiming to help clean up the Emirates. The company is introducing biodegradable plastic wrappers and hopes to use the same technology for its bottles and caps. "We have introduced oxo-biodegradable shrink wraps and handles for our 1.5 litre bottles; a first of its kind initiative in the industry for this region to protect the environment," said Mohammed Usman, the Masafi plant manager.

Empty plastic water bottles are a scourge on the environment, especially in the world's top market. On average, every person in the UAE drinks 285 litres of bottled water a year. The market is worth about Dh1 billion (US$272.2 million) a year, with total annual consumption estimated at 1.2 billion litres. Oxo-biodegradable technology is a relatively new process that adds a small amount of metal salts to plastics. These salts speed up the degradation of the plastic when it is exposed to specific environmental conditions.

The process is decreased from hundreds of years to about 24 months, as the plastic breaks down into water, carbon dioxide and biomass after its first exposure to the sun. "The new packaging is part of Masafi's endeavour to be a leader in all aspects of its business: be it products, innovation, technology, environmental initiatives or supporting government initiatives," said Natascha Edelmann, the head of marketing at Masafi.

"To be introduced in our 1.5 litre bottles in the initial stage, the packaging will be extended to our 500ml bottles and flavoured-water bottles at a later stage - all these at no extra cost to our consumers." Mr Usman said the switch to the more eco-friendly shrink wraps adds about 10 per cent to the company's cost of production, but that is being offset by reducing the weight of the bottles. "The plan is to move to oxo-biodegradable for all our bottles and caps as soon as it is feasible to do so," he said.

Ms Edelmann said: "The bitter truth is that over 60 per cent of litter on beaches is plastic and over 46,000 pieces of plastic debris float on every square mile on our earth's oceans. "Facts such as these have made us step-up our research and development processes furthering our resolve to reduce harmful non-degradable plastic waste."