Fulfil your plastic fantasy

Published December 9, 2022

KARACHI: The inside of a four-storey building adjacent to a major DHA artery appears to be little different from a-dime-a-dozen showrooms selling furniture and home furnishing items in Karachi’s poshest neighbourhood.

But the place is different from other, similar-looking showrooms in two distinct ways: one, everything is made of plastic here. And two, no actual selling takes place on the premises.

The floor looks like concrete, but it’s made of plastic. The mahogany-like doors, also plastic. From windows, tables and wallpapers to the mock ceiling, bathroom fittings and outdoor chairs, everything here is plastic.

The formal name of the material is polyvinyl chloride or PVC, something most Pakistanis associate singularly with pipes and fittings. The public perception is based on the fact that this segment alone consumes more than half of all PVC used in Pakistan.

Country’s sole PVC maker wants to market plastic as alternative for everything from wood to gypsum

As for the second distinct feature, the place exists as a mock showroom of sorts. The staff doesn’t try to sell stuff to the visitors. Rather, it tries to convince them to transition to PVC from wood, aluminium, gypsum, asbestos and many other materials that’re used in a range of household items like table tops, shelves, sheds, roofs, electrical conduits, cables, trays and wall panels. Visitors can then go out and source their wares from a vendor of their choice.

According to Muhammad Farhan, general manager for downstream business and market development at Engro Polymer and Chemicals Ltd (EPCL), the showroom called “thinkPVC” is a “concept store” to create awareness about PVC products among “stakeholders” and end-consumers.

In a press briefing held on the premises on Thursday, he said PVC is better than its alternatives because it’s fire-resistant, corrosion-free, highly durable, lightweight, chemically inert, easily installed and cost-effective in the long run.

Mr Farhan said PVC is also — hold your breath — environment friendly. Five doors made of PVC save one tree from getting felled. Its thermal conductivity is six times lower than that of aluminium.

“It’s recyclable multiple times,” he said.

But aren’t plastics of all kinds recyclable? How often plastic is actually recycled in Pakistan – or around the planet, for that matter – is hardly a secret.

EPCL is the only manufacturer of PVC resin in Pakistan. Most of its output is sold locally. Less than 7pc of the company’s net revenue in 2021 originated from exports to European, US, Middle Eastern and Afghan markets.

As EPCL isn’t in the business of making stuff for end-consumers, its concept store is meant to serve architects, designers, contractors, builders, retailers and wholesalers.“We want our local companies to develop PVC brands for export markets. Value-added goods fetch significantly higher foreign exchange than exporting raw material,” he said, noting that per capita consumption in Pakistan is hovering at only 1.2kg versus the global average of 6kg.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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