The Plastic Project parts ways with founder after ‘Steve Jobs moment’

Amber Soong has left the Singapore-based plastic recycler she co-founded in 2021, citing an internal disagreement over the direction of the firm. The Plastic Project has released a statement to explain why it cut ties.

The Plastic Project directors Yew Jin Lee and Amber Soong.
The Plastic Project directors Yew Jin Lee and Amber Soong (right) talking in a Facebook video posted in January 2022 to mark the company's first anniversary. Image: Facebook

The Plastic Project (TPP), a Singapore-based environmental education and upcycling company, has parted ways with one of its founders after an internal dispute over the direction of the firm.

A cryptic post left on TPP’s social media channels on Thursday (2 March) signalled that “things has [sic] not been going smoothly” at the organisation.

“The TPP that once was is no longer. It is unfortunate to announce it this way but there has been disharmony and a breach of trust in the organisation,” the message read.

Amber Soong, who co-founded the organisation with Yew Jin Lee in 2021, told Eco-Business that she had left the company after a “Steve Jobs moment”, a reference to the ousting of the Apple co-founder after a power struggle in the mid-1980s. 

“TPP is an idea that was started by me and one other,” she said. “But they’ve chosen to go in another direction.”

Soong and Lee were joined by Paul Lee, an actor and model, in running the company in July 2021. Lee is TPP’s marketing and operations director.

Yew Jin Lee, a multi-disciplinary artist, leads TPP’s prototyping and production team. He also works with artists to encourage the use of recycled plastics to make new products.

Soong said there was a “misalignment” over the way the firm worked with its community of volunteers, who make up a large proportion of its workforce. “TPP is an organisation run by the community. Personally, I require a certain level of integrity, standards and transparency,” she said without going into specifics.

Soong said she would post a video on social media on Saturday 4 March to explain what happened in more detail.

In a statement from TPP posted on Paul Lee’s Instagram account on Saturday 4 March, the company confirmed the change in leadership and said the business would be continuing as usual.

After thanking Soong for her contribution to the company, it said it cut ties due to: “actions involving unauthorised usage of company funds, negligence of duty, lack of integrity and more.”

The statement said Soong had control over TPP’s social media accounts, and has denied access to her former colleagues.

Soong co-founded TPP in January 2021 after returning from a four-year stint as a scuba diving instructor in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. The Covid-19 pandemic had prompted her to move back to Singapore.

She was inspired to start TPP having experienced the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems first-hand. She was responsible for coordinating crew teams, workshops, and programmes at TPP, an organisation she said is profitable.

TPP collects high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the type of plastic found in milk, shampoo and medicine bottles, and polypropylene (PP), found in takeaway containers, for use in its upcycling programmes. The firm is located in Geylang in central Singapore.

This story has been updated to include a statement posted on Paul Lee’s Instagram account on behalf of The Plastic Project on Saturday 4 March.

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