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Business Location: Kampala, Uganda
Year of Founding: 2020
Number of Employees: 4
CEO: Mark Musinguzi
Mission: Hya Bioplastics exists to give every business across Africa a cost-effective green packaging alternative. It aims to solve the plastic problem using environmentally friendly food packaging made from local waste streams
Vision: To become the leading provider of sustainable food packaging in Africa by upcycling local waste into food packaging to create a short and localised supply chain
Hya Bioplastics is pioneering the transformation of the packaging landscape in Africa by providing a cost competitive, sustainable alternative to plastic packaging.
Uganda is one of the major global producers of bananas, with 75% of farmers in Uganda, mostly smallholders, growing bananas on about 1.8 million hectares of land. The by-products from these crops that are left over after harvesting are generating approximately 30 tonnes of agricultural waste per acre per season. Adding to the issue of agricultural waste, plastic waste impacts the African continent, with plastic recycling rates as low as 3%. While biodegradable packaging can contribute to reducing these streams of plastic waste, the high price of these products that mainly are imported to Uganda disincentivise their use.
Hya Bioplastics turns these challenges into opportunities by introducing biodegradable packaging made from agricultural by-products. It was created in 2019 primarily as a research project focused on converting water hyacinth, an invasive aquatic plant, into biodegradable packaging. The production process utilises flexible starch inputs (e.g., cassava, potato, wheat) and plant fibre sources (e.g., sugarcane bagasse, banana pseudo stem fibre, wheat bran) to create 100% home compostable products.
Relationship with Smallholders
Hya Bioplastics sources agricultural waste materials from local communities adding additional income streams for farmers. The company purchases the by-products are fair prices (e.g. $1-2 per banana stem).
Products Covered and Markets
The current product line of bio-based compostable dry food packaging includes:
- disposable party plates and takeaway food boxes
- fruit and vegetable trays
Hya Bioplastics currently sells their innovative products to grocery stores and food retailers in Uganda.
Innovations: Milestones and Expansion Plans
Hya Bioplastics offers a sustainable packaging alternative to traditional plastics. Its team has worked on product development to offer a resistant and cost-effective alternative to plastic packaging. Its research and development activities have also focused on market research to target market partnerships and sales outlet for their products, adapting them to the (potential) customers’ needs.
Hya Bioplastics has been engaging in research and development to make their product cost effective and competitive to current plastic on the market. It is able to achieve low costs through its short supply chain, where agricultural waste is sourced from areas close to their manufacturing facilities. The company’s machinery is capable of utilising a wide, flexible range of plant fibre inputs, enabling an ease of waste transformation and scale across various geographies.
Hya Bioplastics has developed a production processed that requires flexible starch inputs (e.g. cassava, potato, wheat) to be combined with plant fibre sources (e.g. sugarcane bagasse, banana pseudo stem fiber, wheat bran).
More recently, investments have been made to scale the production capacity to over 7,000 products daily.
The manufacturing equipment costs as low as $150,000 to set up. To scale up the production and usage of bioplastics, Hya Bioplastics is offering the opportunity for others to pilot their technology through the sale of this equipment.
Needs for Upscaling
Hya Bioplastics is looking to tap into what is a $500 million opportunity in East Africa in the packaging market for clients in the fast food, retail sector and notably, the fruit export sector. Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya already enacted partial bans on plastic packaging, but without cost competitive alternatives these bans have been difficult to implement. The company is looking for co-applications for grants to pilot their technology in new areas and broaden its zone of activity.
Furthermore, Hya Bioplastics is searching for market partnerships with fruit exporters who are switching from Styrofoam trays to biodegradable packaging. Specifically, the company is looking for those exporting vegetables to Europe where there are plastic bans already implemented. The company is also seeking partnerships with those who are willing to pilot its containerised manufacturing units in different geographical locations and to start to sell the packaging in their regions.
Success Factors and Lessons Learned
Hya Bioplastics sells over 500 of their innovative products per day that have positive implications for the environment, climate, economy and local community. It is based on a flexible and easy to scale business model where a variety of plant based fibres can be used as the raw material inputs.
Hya Bioplastics is creating new income streams for farmers by valuing their by-products, thus supporting local livelihoods. The company also contributes to developing sustainable consumption habits in Uganda and circular economy. Not only are their products created by adding value to agricultural waste but they are also 100% compostable and can be used as intrant to produce energy (for cooking) as an alternative to charcoal. Hya Bioplastics also supports the transition away from plastic use in Ugandan companies, including supermarket and restaurants, that can now purchase local, affordable bioplastics for their dry goods.
Hya Bioplastics is a multi-award winning venture. Some of their many accomplishments include being the Grand Prize winner of the Generation Africa GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize Competition in 2022, winning first in the global competition on the circular economy, the Wege Prize, in 2020, and second place in the GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition for young STEM entrepreneurs in 2020.
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