gold - roots biopack
LAST YEAR'S ECO-PRODUCT award bronze winner Roots Biopack took this year's top honour by extending the biodegradability of its food container products to the application of natural colourings and PE/PET surface lamination.
Roots used agricultural wastes such as sugar cane dregs and wheat stalks from reliable non-contaminated sources to extract natural fibre to make its biodegradable products.
The products have been proven to break up in sunlight or ambient temperature, or to decompose in soil within 16 weeks.
The bacteria that feed on the disintegrating fibre in turn release carbohydrates that fertilise the soil.
The products are being perfected after 11 years of investment totalling US$10 million. Returns had been negative for the first nine years. Two years ago, the Roots factory in Shunde, Guangdong, was closed for an overhaul.
This year, fully automated machines replaced semi-automated ones. Production capacity has increased from 100 million items a year to 300 million, and the new capacity has been absorbed by its expanding international clientele.
Founder Albert Oung said: '2006 is the turning point. People are moving to look for eco-friendly products. The time has come. Now we have two to three clients every month coming in to audit [the production process].
'In the past they didn't care. The United States market has changed. People in the business sector are looking for eco-friendly products now.
'Our products are in their third and fourth generation.'
Roots diligently sought certification for its products to substantiate its claims of biodegradability.
Various tests over the years proved its products were biodegradable as claimed, and could be used in hot or cold temperatures, in ovens, microwaves and steamer. They are waterproof, oil-proof and acid-resistant.
The international quality marks earned include HACCP, the World Health Organisation standard for food manufacturing companies; GMP, or good manufacturing practice that certified that a company employed no child labour or applied unfair treatment to workers; BRC/IoP, the global standard on food packaging, as well as the HK Q-mark, which now uses the Roots' standard as the industry standard, and ISO 9001/14001.
The product range has been expanded from food containers to include packaging for iPods, shoe inserts and kidney-shaped trays for use in hospitals and clinics.
Recyclable self-adhesive carton boxes are used to further reduce the environmental impact of the packaging.