Agthia group, a food retail giant in the United Arab Emirates, has developed the Middle East’s first low-energy, biodegradable plant-based packaging for its flagship Al Ain bottled water.
The packaging was developed by the packaging R & D technology center opened by the group in August last year. The biological plastic material used is polylactic acid (PLA),which is described as 100 per cent plant-based — the bottle body is made from corn and the cap from fermented sugarcane.
Tariq Ahmed al wahedi, CEO of agthia group, said that the new plant-based packaging does not contain any petroleum or petroleum by-products. After being composed, it will return to the environment within 80 days (in the form of soil), and is 100% biodegradable.
While there are other compostable packaging options available in the region, Al wahedi says the packaging is an unprecedented product with minimal environmental impact compared to other options on the market. The bottle-making process for Al Ain plant-based packaging is also more environmentally friendly, reducing energy consumption by 60% compared with other packaging options, saving more than 50% of non renewable energy, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60%.
Al wahedi explains the process: “starts from a plant-based material extracted from ethanol, which is then converted into 100% plant resin for the production of bottles.” He believes that this innovation sets a benchmark for sustainable packaging.
Al wahedi said that the food and beverage industry has noticed the change in consumer demand, and they are increasingly choose products and services that help reduce their environmental footprint and are environmentally friendly. Although the project is still in its early stages, Agthia hopes to eventually apply this packaging to other products.
Al Ain plant based bottled water were used for the first time in the UAE’s food service industry in mid-2020. “We will first run the entire end-to-end project with selected partners and customers, such as hotels and airports. Once that phase is complete, we will proceed with the next steps required for this groundbreaking initiative.”
The company sells 1 billion liters of water every year, about 50 million cases, in the UAE. Al wahedi said the company plans to eventually replace 5% of its bottled water packaging with new polylactic acid packaging by 2021. At present, about 99% of Agthia’s packaging is recyclable, and the secondary packaging for all its categories is 100% oxidizable biodegradable. The company also hopes to achieve zero landfill by 2020 and use 10% of recycled material RPET by 2021.