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Plastic waste washes away

Environmental Pro...Environmental Ser...Packaging Service...Start-upsGreen tech

A Hong Kong start-up is tackling the plastic waste mountain by rolling out packaging that literally dissolves.



Serendipity lies at the root of many success stories – when a person or enterprise is busy solving one problem but fortuitously stumbles on another unrelated solution.

Paul Skelcher
Paul Skelcher, Managing Director, Hydroplast

This was the case for Hydroplast. The Hong Kong start-up launched in 2018 with a mission to reduce the mountains of plastic waste polluting the environment worldwide. Little did founder Paul Skelcher know then that the company would provide ready-made solutions to businesses challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Leveraging his background in print and packaging, Mr Skelcher, originally from the United Kingdom, set up Hydroplast to produce plastic-alternative packaging that dissolves in water.

“Our proprietary flagship product range, made from a derivative of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA or PVOH), is 100% water soluble, biodegradable, compostable, and marine-safe,” said the entrepreneur, who is also the firm’s Managing Director.

Established solution

The technology behind it has been around for decades but Hydroplast has made it commercially scalable, Mr Skelcher continued.  “Our point of difference is that we do not use any insoluble fillers, like cornstarch, so there is no residue left behind.”

Hydroplast film offers more functions than virgin plastic but is completely safe at the end of its life with a range of disposal options, he added.

The entrepreneur said the company’s raison d’etre was to help remove plastic from the supply chain, targeting prolific users of single-use plastic – such as hotels, airlines and the garment industry. By early 2020, Hydroplast was selling bin bags, laundry bags, shopping bags and garment bags to customers in various markets, including Hong Kong, Mainland China and Europe.

Then COVID hit and “ramped up the business considerably”, Mr Skelcher said. With heightened hygiene concerns, hotels increased orders while new customers also came on board.

“Protection from virus was new, and urgent,” he said. “The benefits had moved from just environmental to keeping everyone safe, and their business alive. We were already in contact with a lot of hotel chains. Because we presented them with something they could use right now, this ramped up the dialogue.”

Washed away

Hydroplast laundry bags
Hydroplast laundry bags dissolve harmlessly in the wash

In the space of a few months, Hydroplast’s single-use laundry bags, which dissolve harmlessly in the wash, avoiding cross-handling of their contents, have gone from being “a very small part of our business to a very significant part”, he said.

Meanwhile, the company is about to start supplying its products to two major luxury hotel brands in Hong Kong, as well as international boarding schools, while reigniting talks with other industries such as airlines and garment production as they slowly resume business.

All of Hydroplast’s product design and marketing are done in the company’s Hong Kong headquarters while production, currently in Malaysia, will expand to Mainland China in 2021.

“We’re looking at [this] year being a fantastic year,” Mr Skelcher said. “We’re signed up to replace all plastic for a major airline and their subsidiaries, so step-by-step, we are getting there."

He believes the trend towards sustainable plastic alternatives is set to grow strongly as the world tackles a currently unsurmountable waste problem.

“People have to be the driver,” he says. “Our model has always been that this is not about profiteering, but about reducing plastic volumes by brands that have the financial capability and the passion to do it.”

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