Malaysian publicly-owned government company Sirim Berhad, Japanese packaging producer Fujimori Kogyo Co – known as Zacros – and the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) are working together on a project to produce polyhydroxy alkanoates (PHA) from waste vegetable cooking oil.

As part of the project, the companies had completed construction of a pilot plant for biomass-derived and marine biodegradable resins, Zacros said on 24 July.

Located at Sirim’s facility, the plant would process agricultural waste and residues as raw materials and the fermentation, extraction, and refining processes would incorporate the natural eco-system of micro-organisms and insects, the company said.

Zacros said it would conduct a demonstration of its manufacturing process at the plant and expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

"The project is underpinned by … research … by USM researchers and complemented by a team of experts in bioprocessing from SIRIM, enabling the scaling up of the bioplastics production process,” Sirim president and group CEO Dr Ahmad Sabirin Arshad said.

The bioplastics produced would be used in the production of single-use plastic products – such as cutlery and food packaging – in Southeast Asian countries, the company said.

With a current production capacity of five tonnes/year, Zacros said it planned to increase production at the plant to 5,000 tonnes/year by 2030.

A global manufacturer of plastic film, Zacros said it had plants in three Southeast Asian countries with high marine plastic outflow.

“Recognising the response to marine plastic pollution as one of our social missions, Zacros is committed to the societal implementation of biomass-derived and marine biodegradable resins,” the company said.

Zacros initiated a joint research project with USM in 2021 following the latter’s development of a manufacturing process using micro-organisms which had been successfully demonstrated at lab scale.

Since then, Zacros said it had demonstrated production quantities at pilot scale and following completion of the pilot plant would make further investments in facilities in addition to the manufacturing facilities owned by SIRIM.

“This will allow us to begin a thorough examination of mass production … and the viability of commercialisation,” Zacros said.