‘Plastic disposables are a massive problem’: Why S’pore F&B companies have switched to sustainable packaging despite rising cost pressures

Working towards sustainability.

| Zhangxin Zheng | Sponsored | August 25, 2022, 06:06 PM

The pandemic has definitely thrown a curveball at many businesses and individuals.

To adapt to the challenges in the past two years, businesses that have taken a hit by social restrictions scrambled to find alternatives to tide through the uncertainties.

Companies that were the most affected were the ones in the food & beverage (F&B) and hospitality industries.

Even as things are looking up now, these companies still face problems such as rising costs and labour shortages, which you may have read about in the news recently.

On top of that, there’s the urgent need to act on climate change.

Fortunately, some companies are able to manage their bottom line while achieving progress in becoming more sustainable amidst such tough times.

Mothership spoke to four such companies to understand the changes they’ve made to their operations in recent years, in a bid to become more sustainable.

Doing away with plastic disposables

When it comes to the F&B industry, reducing the use of plastic disposables is one of the most intuitive steps towards sustainability.

The four companies Mothership spoke to are all clients of BioPak, an Australian company that provides plant-based and carbon-neutral food service wares and packaging.

Made from rapidly-renewable raw materials such as FSC™ certified wood and rapidly renewable sugarcane, a by-product of the sugar refining industry – BioPak offers a more sustainable alternative to plastic packaging.

A spokesperson for Owling Enterprises – the company behind a western restaurant called the Hooters at Clarke Quay – shared that their founders felt strongly about becoming more environmentally responsible and tasked the staff to look for ways to cut down on carbon emissions a few years back.

Sugarcane containers used at the Hooters, made from reclaimed and recycled sugarcane pulp. Photo from Owling Enterprises.

The team went on a search for carbon-neutral products and eventually got connected with BioPak in July 2019.

The Mount Faber Leisure Group also made the switch to BioPak’s packaging around three years ago.

Now, you can find compostable bowls and cups as well as paper straws procured from BioPak at selected F&B outlets under the Group and at their events.

A relatively recent customer of BioPak is one-Michelin starred barbeque restaurant Burnt Ends, which started working with BioPak around a month before the start of the pandemic.

Their head of kitchen operations, Alasdair Mckenna, shared that the restaurant had to look into home deliveries at that time in order to keep the restaurant going.

The restaurant owner knew that the amount of disposables that they would be using was a “massive problem”, and so they started doing research on sustainable packaging solutions.

BioPak “ticked all the boxes” for a trustworthy, accredited provider of sustainable packaging, Mckenna shared with Mothership.

Photo by Burnt Ends.

Adapting to the use of compostable products

When asked about the challenges in making this switch to compostable products, the answer is – no surprise – the cost.

The spokesperson of Owling Enterprises shared that the cost of using compostable packaging is “at least double” of that of styrofoam.

However, she added that BioPak was able to provide very competitive prices.

Mckenna shared that what propelled the change was a longer term consideration – a lot of their staff members have young children and that made the team decide to move towards a more sustainable operation for Burnt Ends.

Vincent Phang, the chief executive of Tung Lok Group for Events & Catering, shared that when its catering subsidiary BellyGood considered the switch to sustainable wares, they had to ensure the packaging material was heat tolerant, able to hold liquids well and maintain the temperature of the food.

The company made the effort to switch to sustainable packaging from BioPak as it had been something international shows like F1 had stressed on for quite some time.

Photo by Tung Lok Group.

Other ways to become more sustainable

Besides eliminating the use of plastic disposables, these companies carry out other green practices, such as reducing food waste, recycling more and looking into meat-free options.

The Owling Enterprises has stepped up on recycling efforts at the restaurant, such as working with Nespresso on collecting used capsules.

Burnt Ends, which deals with red meat like beef, said that they are working closely with their meat supplier, who is also looking into a more sustainable farming and production process.

Mckenna added that he is also looking into having meatless options, but will need an extra smoker for the plant-based products.

He’s hoping to provide customers with this option at the restaurant “in the next year or so”.

As for Mount Faber Leisure Group, they are using solar panels to power certain aspects of the cable car such as the light decorations on the exterior of the cable car and the infotainment system that provides an audio commentary during the cable car ride.

This article is sponsored by BioPak.

Top image: Photos courtesy of Owling Enterprises and Burnt Ends.