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Dissolving Plastic Problems

Toto

6. Clean Water and Sanitation 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 14. Life Below Water 15. Life on Land

Overview

Toto's innovative product is a hydrosoluble bag known as the “Solubag” which dissolves in contact with water. This innovation contributes to SDG´s 6, 12, 14, and 15 because it prevents plastic bags from reaching the oceans and land, affecting animals and people. But most importantly, it promotes Life on Water (SDG 14), as it is a new and effective solution to plastic waste problems in oceans.

Authors

Diego Giammattei

Diego Giammattei

kim witvliet

kim witvliet

Jose Alfredo Laniado

Jose Alfredo Laniado

Mateo Rodriguez

Mateo Rodriguez

Pablo Diez Albareda

Pablo Diez Albareda

School

Universidad de Navarra

Universidad de Navarra

Professor

Isabel Rodriguez Tejedo

Isabel Rodriguez Tejedo

Innovation

The innovation that is being offered to the public by Toto (a Salvadoran company dedicated to the production of plastic packaging) is called “Solubag,” which is a substitute for the plastic bag that dissolves in the water without leaving microplastics. In terms of the relationship with the SDGs, we can see a clear link between the solution that the company has developed and the SDGs 6, 12, 14, and 15.

In the first place, by being able to dissolve in water, this bag represents a big advance in terms of solving the amount of plastic waste that is being thrown into the environment, which helps with SDGs 6 and 14. In the case that the bag does not end at any source of water, the bag decomposes in less than six months due to the humidity and temperature conditions. Consequently, this bag doesn’t negatively impact life on the land, aligning with SDG 15. The SoluBag material is made from non-toxic components, specifically starch and polyvinyl alcohol, allowing a look and texture of a plastic bag. This patented material was invented by a Chilean company and licensed to Toto to produce these innovative bags.

Nevertheless, Toto has as much to do with the innovation, as they have developed the necessary protocol to manipulate that material and be able to produce the bags that they offer to the public nowadays. A fascinating feature of the product is that it is safe for the people and the environment, up to the point that it is completely good for a human being to dissolve one of these bags in water and drink it at the moment. Undoubtedly, this product reflects that working towards responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) is crucial for the future.

Dissolving Plastic Problems

Toto's Solubag

Inspiration

Toto has always sought and committed to continuous innovativeness and bringing the top-of-the-line technology that contributes to society and the environment. It was Luis’ remarkable curiosity and desire to bring more sustainable solutions to the national and international market that inspired him to find Solubag. This is a patented product created by a Chilean company in 2015 that innovatively developed an eco-friendly alternative to plastic that doesn’t generate waste as it can dissolve in water. Luis was able to see the enormous potential that this product presented, and through continuous negotiations, he was able to obtain a licensing deal in 2018 to produce this innovative product in their renewable energy-fueled factories.

“It is my drive to create a positive impact on society and educate Latin American society that inspired me to search for innovative solutions to this industry.” It became clear that Luis' well-defined purpose and drive to positively influence society and the environment sparked his desire to innovate. Moreover, he believes that a vital source of inspiration for this product is his ambition to answer complex problems in Latin America and the world through his business. “A business without a noble purpose is empty and will not thrive." He firmly believes that challenges in Latin America like the lack of awareness of sustainability should be addressed not only through education but through action.

Luis thinks that the solid embedded sustainable culture in Toto naturally inspired Solubag's implementation and has opened many doors to the company. Currently, Toto is the only certified distributor in Central America and has become the largest distributor of the Solubag in the world. This story shows how innovation is not simply about creating new products from zero, but it is also about working together towards providing better and more sustainable alternatives to the market. Moreover, Toto was able to develop a more energy-efficient production process for the Solubag that reduces the company’s carbon emissions.

Overall impact

Did you know that 90% of the trash floating in our oceans is made of plastic? This has massive implications for biodiversity as it kills as many as one million sea creatures every year. Due to this fact, the impact of this innovation is massive as it eliminates all traces of their plastic products before they reach the ocean.

Not only that, but it is also approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has the Food Safety Systems Certification (FSSC 22000-4.1 & FSSC 22000-5) which acknowledges that it is manufactured with the highest quality and safety standard. To the extent where you can dissolve their plastic bag in a cup of water and drink it from there. Moreover, Toto was able to develop a more energy-efficient production process for the Solubag that reduces the company’s carbon emissions.

Apart from this, the means of production to make this product are also sustainable as the company manufactures it using 100% renewable energy (solar power). This source of energy has helped it reduce its footprint by more than 900 tons of carbon dioxide per year. So far in 2021, they have managed to reduce their carbon footprint by 840,000 kg.

In addition, it helps educate local communities on the impact of their plastic waste to make them more aware of the problems that this contamination brings to the planet; whilst showing them that there is a viable alternative to traditional harmful plastics.

To sum up, the Solubag innovation positively impacts the oceans, environment, and local communities by dissolving before it reaches the ocean, being produced with renewable energy, and educating local communities.

Business benefit

This innovation brings several benefits for the company. It has aroused curiosity in customers and suppliers, so many industries and potential clients are excited to buy the product. With this product, the company is positioned with the cutting edge of technology that has allured market attention. There is no other company in America that uses PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) for this use except for Chile's enterprise that first introduced these processes. These important aspects give Toto a good position in the market and have enabled the company to differentiate itself from competitors.

Furthermore, Solubag's innovation has strengthened the organization and reinforced Toto’s motto of “leaving green footsteps.” More than 500 employees work in the company and the retention rate according to what Luis said is very high since more than two family generations of employees work there. Having a strong sense of purpose and great products that positively impact the environment is vital for employees' motivation and has been reflected in the company's growth in the last few years.

Toto is revolutionizing the way people think about plastic, and in particular, establishing an alternative way of reducing this material and protecting the environment. These innovations bring Toto plenty of international opportunities. They have already closed a deal to export their water-soluble bag to Spain and analyze if it works in other regions. At the same time, they are at the forefront of distributing this new concept to the rest of Latin America as they consider it a strategic region to expand the business. As a result, Solubag's innovation has provided numerous benefits and opportunities.

Social and environmental benefit

The benefits of the Solubag have been notable to both society and the environment in El Salvador and other countries. In terms of environmental impact, Toto has been able to create a positive impact towards developing a more sustainable future. First of all, the Solubag is contributing to SDGs 14 and 15 which is life below water and on land. Solubag’s ability to dissolve in water means that they are able to significantly reduce overall plastic waste in rivers and oceans. Consequently, this has helped reduce the death of animals due to plastic waste and build a long-term positive impact on these animals' habitats. Moreover, Solubag’s harmless technology and lack of microplastics allow a steady progression in cleaner water and sanitation which is SDG 6.

However, it is not only the product itself that positively affects the environment but also the production process. Toto has strongly bet on renewable energy since 2018 that has been able to reduce its carbon footprint by 840,000 kg in 2021.

Solubag has also sparked awareness in society and caused a positive impact. Various Latin American countries including El Salvador must accelerate their sustainability transition in order to help in the fulfillment of SDGs goals. We believe that beyond the clear advantages of the product itself, Toto’s investment in this innovative technology exemplifies how businesses can work towards a greater future. Toto has become a great role model for many businesses, and in September 2021 they gave lectures in the GEA Forum (Environmental Business Management). As Luis said, “One business can influence, but various businesses with a sustainable mindset can create enduring change.”

There are still various challenges in El Salvador regarding sustainable adoption. However, as Luis said, “It is our duty to raise awareness to other businesses, schools, and other organizations and educate people on these issues.” Educational centers, colleges, and schools have opened their doors to the company to share topics such as recycling, environmental impact, caring for natural resources, responsibility, and pro-environment habits. Moreover, Solubag's innovation has generated dozens of new job positions that create more opportunities for people.

Interview

Luis Antonio Tona, CEO

Photo of interviewee

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Toto

Toto

San Juan Opico, La Libertad, SV

Business Website: https://toto.com.sv/

Year Founded: 1985

Number of Employees: 501 to 1000

Toto is a Salvadoran business that focuses on making flexible packages for businesses and customers. They are passionate about bringing innovation to the plastics industry, with the creation of eco-friendly products for the environment. Having 50 years of experience, they have created a high-standard business that has triple bottom line impact. Sustainability is strongly embedded in their culture as they create a positive impact on society and the environment with a flexible mindset. They have been the first in El Salvador to implement 100% biodegradable bags and recently the innovatively hydrosoluble bags have provided solutions to plastic usage and improvement to the environment.