Plastic-ware maker ramps up eco-friendly effort

What is in the future for forks?

What is in the future for forks?

A Chinese company with manufacturing facilities in Upper Macungie Township is looking into that, and it will affect operations here in the Lehigh Valley.

Fuling Global Inc., which manufactures plastic tableware, began U.S. operations in 2014 to be closer to many of its major corporate clients such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Wal-Mart.

Now the company is looking to find ways to make its products, which are inherently disposable, more environmentally friendly.

Late last year, the firm gathered some of China’s top researchers in the industry from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry and Chinese Academy of Engineering. The goal was to help Fuling devise new and better ways to make its products – including those made in the Lehigh Valley – and to set the agenda for its research and development goals for 2016.

Gilbert Lee, chief financial officer for Fuling Plastic USA in Upper Macungie, said the company specializes in plastic tableware that is more environmentally friendly, but processes always can improve.

“Plastic disposable [tableware], plates and cups for the food service industry are intended of one-time use,” Lee said. “Because of that, the volume of it is huge, and we all know it’s taking up a lot of space in landfills.”

While recycling plastics is always the ideal, after decades of promoting recycling programs and significant improvements in recycling participation and availability, most people simply view some products as disposable, he said.

“You can’t change the habit, especially of people in the U.S., where we are so used to using a thing and throwing it away. People want the convenience of this,” Lee said.

At the same time, Lee said, “people are feeling guilty about this, and they’re looking to use more environmentally friendly products.”

Stacy Wescoe
Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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