This sustainable food packaging entrepreneur turns food into fertilizer

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Food waste fertilizers and single-use packaging? Sustainable packaging company TRIA and KFC Singapore have launched the world’s first closed-loop single-use packaging solution as part of a pilot program. Their initiative aims to catalyze circularity in the F&B industry.

TRIA is led by CEO Ng Pei Kang, who spent over a decade as an innovation designer before moving into sustainability. While exploring “more meaningful” career options, he delved deeper into Singapore’s waste problem. Eventually he turned to sustainable food packaging.

As the homepage of the TRIA website reminds us, 12 million tonnes of food waste are thrown away every year and end up in landfill. On average, a person living in a city generates 150 kg of food waste. The same person is probably responsible for 30 kg of disposable packaging waste.

“Sustainability is a big problem to solve – and probably one of the toughest for our generation. To achieve sustainability, we have to take ownership and responsibility,” says Ng, 41. “Singapore is a small country , but a heavy consumer with a fierce appetite, so it would be amazing if we could do the same in the follow-up.

Closing the food waste loop

CEO of TRIA, Ng Pei Kang.

To enable catering businesses to close the loop, it has developed a farm-to-table solution that turns single-use food packaging and food waste into fertilizer. Patented technologies allow TRIA’s NEUTRIA bio-based material to be digested into fertilizer and biogas for green energy. Moreover, with its food waste recovery system, TRIA even takes the responsibility of the producer by closing the waste loop.

Going forward, TRIA has formed a partnership with a waste management partner to set up a new 3,000 square foot digestion facility, which will open in mid-2023. With an expected cost of over $3 million dollars to build, it will have the capacity to process 30,000 kg of packaging waste and food waste on a daily basis.

The pilot initiative with KFC Singapore currently using TRIA’s hypercomposter which processes approximately 1,000 kg of packaging and food waste daily was launched in June.

Besides contributing to Singapore’s Green Plan 2030, its annual production of 850 tonnes of fertilizer will also benefit farmers and improve our country’s food security. The plant can also produce 2,500 MW of green energy, enough to power several HDB blocks for a year.

Thanks to its products, TRIA has received accolades such as Emerging Enterprise Award, ASEAN-Korea Excellent Design and Singapore Packaging Star Awards. These products are not only designed for sustainability, but also to help customers transition to a greener future by identifying and addressing pain points.

Related: Turning food waste into gold

A win-win for consumers, businesses and the environment

Ng Pei Kang, CEO of Tria

Ownership is key to Ng’s success. “Sustainability is not an isolated issue. It is something that needs to be passed on and changed. Owning the waste is an important part of the process,” he says.

His actions match his words. “By taking responsibility for the closed-loop process with our cradle-to-table model – from packaging sourcing and waste collection, to digestion, and finally conversion to fertilizer – we want to encourage other product manufacturers to embrace this circular concept of return and recycle.”

“We want to show that circularity can be a positive-sum game,” says Ng, “where it’s a win-win outcome for consumers, businesses, and the environment.”

Hopes are high for TRIA’s partnership with KFC. When the pilot program with the fast-food giant’s Northpoint City outlet, which began in June, ends after six months, it will assess how to scale the solution across all of its 80 outlets. in Singapore.

“Together we can bring about change and positively impact the world,” says Ng, whose goal is to inspire others to take on sustainability challenges beyond their usual limits with this project.

Towards the end of our conversation, we ask him to describe his entrepreneurial style. “When a problem arises, I prefer to ask what we can do to solve it rather than dwell on it. I’m still learning as an entrepreneur and I’m happy about it. It is important to stay humble so that ideas can continue to flow.

Related: Zero-waste rum cocktails to sip at 13 Singapore bars

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