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Every month, 57,000 tonnes of paper—enough to fill up 456,000 cubic meters of landfill space—gets dumped in Malaysia. That’s like chopping down a whopping 680,000 trees that are big enough to sell.

All this paper waste we’re chucking into landfills is causing more greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, and there’s hardly any space left to build more landfills.

To make a difference, Materials In Works (MIW) founded by a group of packaging material experts took up as their mission to fight global warming by giving leftover paper liner from the packaging world another shot.

They’re turning it into something called recovered cellulose pulp and putting it right back into the mix. This move stops the valuable paper liner leftovers from hitting the dumps and zooms in on getting that cellulose pulp back as raw material.

Image Credit: Materials In Works

Conquering challenges with creativity

From curious kid to industry trailblazer, MIW founder John Ooi Chong Sen’s journey started early, fueled by his love for chemistry and his eye for opportunity.

After his undergraduate studies in industrial chemistry, John jumped into the industry as a technical engineer.

His dedication and innovative mindset quickly propelled him into a managerial role at just 26, where he made waves in scientific advancements and sustainable packaging, even filing two patents along the way.

However, it was a growing problem within the label packaging industry that truly ignited John’s entrepreneurial spirit. 

The tons of paper liner residues generated each day posed a significant environmental challenge, with the only disposal method in Malaysia being through landfills. Witnessing the environmental toll firsthand, John determined to find a solution.

Teaming up with Dr Leh Cheu Peng, a technical advisor and professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, John set out to tackle the issue head-on. 

With his industry experience and Dr Leh’s expertise, they embarked on a research collaboration, laying the groundwork for what would become MIW.

Image Credit: Materials In Works

“We conducted research on possible green chemistry solutions to recover cellulose from residual paper liner,” John told Vulcan Post.

MIW’s journey from concept to reality was no easy feat. It took five years of painstaking research and development, including two years impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. 

The research and development process followed a systematic approach, from extensive research and analysis to prototyping, testing, and pilot trials. 

Yet, their efforts paid off as MIW succeeded in the lab proof-of-concept and was ready to scale up their technology.

Additionally, they achieved a crowdfunding total of over RM2,000,000 for their campaign in October last year.

Standing out from the rest

MIW distinguishes itself by employing IP-protected upcycling technology to produce high-quality products.

Their revenue generation strategy involves charging waste collection fees to packaging stakeholders and marketing recovered cellulose pulp as a raw material.

This cellulose pulp, devoid of lignin (a type of complex organic polymer found in the support tissues of plants), is prized for its suitability in premium items such as specialty papers, tissues, and food packaging.

Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, the company rigorously evaluates the quality of its recovered cellulose pulp against virgin chemical pulp using scientific data.

John’s objective is to expand their operations with partners and introduce eco-friendly upcycling initiatives rooted in their regional expertise.

Image Credit: Materials In Works

The established model ensures that all stakeholders in the ecosystem receive exceptional waste management services and sustainable product solutions, thereby aiding them in attaining their sustainability objectives.

Core activities encompass waste collection, handling, upcycling processes, and the generation of new raw materials.

“This is mutually beneficial for the environment and the paper products manufacturers, as price and availability of pulp raw material are key concerns for industry players as they are mostly imported in Malaysia and subject to pulp price fluctuations.”

“MIW is able to reintroduce the residual paper liner into the value chain, via an IP-backed treatment process that turns it into a high-quality raw material for paper products manufacturers, effectively diverting the valuable residue from ending up in landfills,” said John.

Image Credit: Materials In Works

By doing this, the company aims to save thousands of trees annually and reduce CO2 emissions by a staggering 79%.

With over ninety percent of paper liners consisting of cellulose—a valuable resource with close to zero percent of lignin content—the potential for upcycling is immense.

Looking ahead beyond paper

With strategic partnerships with industry players, paper manufacturers, and clients, MIW is prepared to make a significant impact on the sustainability landscape. 

“Currently, we have secured interest from at least four partners or clients to participate in MIW’s circular economy projects,” he shared.

Besides, John’s vision for the company extends beyond paper liners. 

He wants to position MIW as a leader in sustainable packaging solutions by planning to explore upcycling solutions for other materials like plastics, textiles, and electronic waste.

With a focus on innovation, collaboration, and environmental stewardship, John and his team are paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future. 

  • You can learn more about their business here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Materials In Works

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)