Tirta Marta is helping Indonesia’s environment and its economy by replacing traditional plastics with bio-degradable alternatives, with raw materials sourced through cassava farmers who now earn a fair trade income.
Geographic Area of Impact: Indonesia, United States, Colombia, Singapore, Vietnam
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 191 tons ECOPLAS® and 1147 tons of OXIUM® sold; 40% carbon footprint reduction; 25% income increase of 50 cassava farmers (2012)
Annual Budget: US$ 9.5 million (2012)
Percent Earned Revenue: 100%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013
Plastic is a low cost alternative to glass and aluminum for packaging and each year the world’s population uses 275,000,000 megatons of plastic. While the 3R concept of recycle, reuse, and reduce can help minimize plastic’s impact on the environment, much of the world’s plastic still finds its way to landfills, rivers, or incinerators. Traditional plastic left behind takes 500 to 1000 years to degrade. At the same time, Indonesia’s GDP is disproportionately dependent on the extraction and export of raw materials because it lacks the capacity to process and add value to its rich natural resources. Tirta Marta believes that without the capacity to provide the world with value added goods and services, Indonesia has limited the distribution of wealth to the poor. The need to add value to farmed goods in tropical countries is well known, especially for goods like cassava (tapioca) which is widely grown but has not been able to produce significant income for farmers. Tirta Marta has, subsequently, invested in 10 years of R&D to create a cost competitive bio-degradable plastic out of cassava that not only reduces the carbon footprint of plastic by 40%, but also revolutionizes the industry.
Innovation and Activities
Tirta Marta promotes a zero tolerance mindset for designing plastic to last beyond its useful life cycle. Its goal is to create packaging products from renewable resources with lower carbon footprint and lower energy consumption than the market alternatives. At the same time, these products should build a value-added industry in Indonesia, and the raw materials should be sourced from small and medium farming cooperatives to increase the income of the poor.
In working toward this goal, Tirta Marta has brought to market two innovations in affordable biodegradable and degradable plastic for social and environmental impact: OXIUM® and ECOPLAS®, available as an additive and resin are used in finished products which include shopping bags, packaging, lunch boxes, re-useable totes, and coat hangers. OXIUM® is an additive that catalyzes degradation in plastic. For example, a standard plastic shopping bag with OXIUM® begins to break down in two years eventually becoming bio available at a molecular level. OXIUM® is priced to be only 2-5% more expensive than traditional plastic. Positioned for mass market adoption, OXIUM®, within 2 years, has captured more than 90% of Indonesia’s modern markets and convenience stores using plastic shopping bags. The second innovative product is ECOPLAS®, a bio-degradable polymer made from tapioca. ECOPLAS® can be made into blown film or injection molded products, and is the first “Fair for Life” certified bio plastic in the world. Certified by the IMO for Fair for Life, Tirta Marta is the only bio plastic producer with the ability to make a Fair Trade claim.
Tirta Marta’s continues to open and penetrate additional markets, including South China, Philippines, Mexico, Malaysia and South Africa with its bio plastic solutions. Tirta Marta is also working with governments to shape environmental policies incentivizing the adoption of degradable and biodegradable plastics. In the future, the company hopes to become active in the carbon credit markets.
Tirta Marta was founded in 1971 as a traditional packaging business by Sugianto Tandio’s father-in-law. Sugianto bought the business from him in 1994, and has steered the company in the direction of sustainable packaging. With the desire to improve the environment and farmer livelihoods, he invested ten years of Tirta Marta’s resources in research and development towards environmentally sustainable plastics. Prior to leading Tirta Marta, Sugianto Tandio worked as a senior engineer at 3M in the United States, where he earned his Masters and Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degrees.
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