Closing the loop: Recycling at Thong Guan

Closing the loop: Recycling at Thong Guan

Yes, new developments in pallet wrap are allowing us to do far more with far less. However, so too is it vital that we continue to assess, install and advance new techniques and technologies that close the loop of plastic use. It’s why we are proud of the work being done behind the scenes at Thong Guan Industries, where a recycling initiative is making an impact on sustainability at a production level.

Thong Guan Industries (TGI) is one of the largest producers of pallet stretch film in Southeast Asia. The company is responsible for producing innovative products like NanoWrap.

Here at Universal Packaging we have been working alongside them for over a decade now. Throughout this time we’ve always valued the investment the company has made in continued research and development. Their approach to sustainability is seen as not simply a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity. 

Ch-ch-changes

Using recycled content may seem like an easy fix to a business looking to close the loop on plastic waste. However, as anyone who has struggled with inferior plastic packaging at home or at work will know, recycled packaging can often result in far more plastic actually being needed.

Some recycled films in the marketplace are inferior due to this near-sighted approach to product development. The general approach is ‘recycled content is good’ rather than ‘recycled content is good – when it’s fit for purpose.’

During TGI’s research and development processes, they realised waste material input had a major impact on product output. As TGI’s General Manager, David Ang, puts it, the reality of the process was “garbage in, garbage out”. To retain a high level of quality in their products they needed to use quality waste.

This spurred the company to open its own recycling facility, TGSH, in 2011. While it was a large initial investment, it has already delivered some noteworthy returns. Since opening, the plant has already stopped over 41,700 metric tonnes of plastic waste from ending up in landfills or the ocean.

“From here we’re only going to get better and better,” says Ang, “With this ‘quality in’ process we will be able to increase recycled content in the future while retaining the same quality performance standards. We must continue to strive towards closing the loop in plastic production, use and re-use.”

How does it work?

Plastic is collected predominantly from post-industrial waste (PIW) sources, although post-consumer waste (PCW) is increasingly being sourced also, with 140,100kgs of PCW collected in the first quarter of 2022.

Next, the waste is sorted by type, colour and grade. This is a rigorous process that allows TGSH to group together plastics with similar properties in terms of chemical composition, melting point and contaminant levels. The purity of the recycled resins within these plastics will be vital to the strength and quality of the end products.

These plastics are then passed through a shredder, which turns them into small enough pieces for processing. This granulating process also exposes any remaining impurities in the plastics.

Finally, the shredded pieces are melted and transformed into resin pellets, which can be mixed into the plastic production line based on an extrusion formulation.

The work behind the scenes

For David Ang the change is just one way TGI remain unerringly focused on the future of their industry. He’s understandably proud of the enhanced capability the company has with this recycling process underway.

“A massive part of our work is in research and development,” he says. “We don’t (only) focus on wrap. We focus on solutions for our customers. However, achieving those solutions often takes lots of hard work! And we often have to step into the unknown to get it done.”

Implementing effective long-term solutions means balancing this need with the promise of consistent quality and performance across TGI’s range. It’s obviously a challenge when using recycled content. But it is also clear that the company is continuing to make major gains in this area. 

 

Thong Guan's approach to sustainability is seen as not simply a ‘nice to have’, but a necessity. 

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