Bee Kind Borneo: Eco-friendly food packaging

Wrappers do not need to be plain boring, but aesthetic and attractive.

The food packaging industry has gone through some considerable changes over the years. As the demands grew and shifted, so have the packages that hold food products. Environmental issues make people more conscious, and influence them to make more sustainability-minded purchases.

Be kind to the environment

Wrappers do not need to be plain boring, but aesthetic and attractive.

Statistics indicate that consumer packaging causes the most amount of plastic and paper waste, which is about 20 percent of all waste in landfills.

Realising the fact, eco-friendly packaging, also known as sustainable packaging, green packaging or environment-friendly packaging, is fast emerging as the current trend in the food packaging industry.

The use of earth-friendly materials to package a product can help deliver the message on environmental conservation to its customers.

A local company, ‘Bee Kind Borneo’ is paving the way to promote sustainable and eco-friendly food packaging with aesthetic values. Floral, animals, abstracts and food — the designs of your food wrappers need not be plain brown or white any longer.

This clever innovation takes the form of a piece of cloth, but is very versatile in use. From wrapping sandwiches, to your favourite kek lapis, these beeswax wrappers can also be used as covers for your bowl of soup or your plate of rice.

Goh Ai Fen — founder of ‘Bee Kind Borneo’.

A guilty conscience is what drove 39-year-old Goh Ai Fen to be more environmentally friendly in everyday life. “I realised that I used a large amount of plastic cling film and food wraps to store leftovers, odd-sized half-cut vegetables and fruits, especially those that don’t fit into containers.

“While it may seem familiar and a normal thing to do so, I suddenly felt like I could’ve done it differently. I feel guilty about the environmental repercussions of my single-use habits.”
Goh then decided to go against the practice in 2018, and opted to use food wraps made of beeswax instead. “As fate would have it, my aunt, who is in New Zealand, gave me a small beeswax wrap and I fell in love with it immediately.” Exploring the idea, Goh said she admired the concept as it was a more earth-friendly approach.

“The wrap was a reusable food storage packaging made from natural materials that would decompose naturally over time,” she said. Made by coating a sheet of cotton fabric with bee’s wax, jojoba or coconut oil and pine resin, beeswax wraps is not something new. Goh explained that the product was widely used in eco-friendly countries like New Zealand and Australia.

Though it is readily available on the market there, she said that it would be costly to purchase and have them delivered here due to the exchange rate and shipping cost. “So I decided instead to learn how to make my own wraps when I visited New Zealand in 2018.”

Having made a few extra pieces, Goh then tried to sell the excess to like-minded individuals on Facebook. “At the time, I wondered if perhaps there are people who are interested to buy them so I posted them on Facebook and I was surprised to find out that there are friends who were keen on the eco-friendly option. From there, I started ‘Bee Kind Borneo’,” she revealed.

Looking for local sources

A friendlier option compared to single-use plastics, Goh made the wraps using cotton coated with natural beeswax, coconut oil and pine resin. Currently, she sourced the beeswax and pine resin from New Zealand, “I bought the materials in batches before the pandemic started. As for the oil, I opted to use coconut oil as it was a more economical alternative compared to jojoba. Furthermore, it was much easier to source locally.”

Goh also said that she went and sourced for local beeswax, but pricing became an issue. Nonetheless, she is still looking forward to using locally-sourced materials for her product. “I would love to have a product that uses Sarawak-sourced materials. Hopefully, this will be possible as that would also reduce the carbon footprint of the materials used in the future.”

Towards a sustainable lifestyle

To clean the wraps, gently hand-wash under cool running water with a tinge of dish-wash liquid. Rinse, air-dry, fold and store for next use.

As an advocate for eco-friendly lifestyle, Goh is against the usage of single-use food wraps as they are non-recyclable. “They would clog up machineries, and so often end up in landfills and release toxic chemicals as they break down.”

Concerned, she lamented how single-use plastic would also end up in rivers and oceans. “They are often mistaken as a food source by the marine creatures and birds who would either choke on them or slowly starve to death from malnourishment due to bellies full of plastic.”

With many campaigns leaning towards raising awareness for a more ‘green’ earth, Goh said that a lot of individuals have become more aware of the environmental impact of single-use plastics. “We need to unlearn the ‘use and throw’ culture of convenience. Hopefully, the awareness will lead to behavioural changes in our everyday lifestyle.”

She understood that single-use packaging is seen as more hygenic in the food and beverage industry, “But I feel that at the very least, we should reduce our reliance on plastic food wraps in our household.

“Beeswax wraps offer a great alternative against single-use packaging. However, for starters, you can prioritise the use of containers and jars lying around your kitchen as an option, and reuse them,” Goh advised.

How are Beeswax Wraps kind to the environment?

• Reduce: The amount of single-use plastic clingfilm/foodwraps in your household.
• Reuse: They are washable and reusable for up to about a year of regular use. The wraps can even be Refreshed by re-waxing to extend it’s shelflife.
• Repurpose: After the beeswax wraps have lost their wax layer, they can be used as kitchen rags to wipe up spills and mess.
• Rot: Finally, once the wrap is truly worn and tattered it can be thrown into the compost bin to be broken down.

During an exhibition, Goh and former Miss World Malaysia Larissa Ping Liew posing a photo with ‘Bee Kind Borneo’ beeswax wrappers.