Packaging Innovation
April 5, 2013

Sustainable packaging in 2013: biodegradable bioplastics

Pepsi uses biodegrable plastics for recyclable packaging that is 100% plant-basedSustainability has become an important part of (marketing) budgets for 2013 and the need to think green is sure to continue for many years to come as both regulation and consumers become stricter on ecological issues. Some companies have already made great strides in reducing the impact of their products on the environment. For example by embracing sustainable packaging, companies have been able to reduce their ecological footprint considerably.

1. Why bioplastics will become even more important in 2013

The Plantbottle by Coca-Cola is a popular example of sustainable packagingCompostable and recyclable packaging is a growing trend and Coca-Cola targets to produce all of its plastic bottles with plant-based materials by 2020. This new form of packaging will be known as PlantBottles. Pepsi is able to one-up Coca-Cola with its own green bottle which is made completely out of plant-based materials, while the version Coca-Cola developed is only 30% plant-based. Both are of course 100% recyclable. Plastics made out of plant-based materials, also known as bioplastics, are a material that is sure to play a key role in many companies’ sustainability strategies. There are two common variations on the bioplastics concept: non-biodegradable and biodegradable plastics. Both kinds are predicted to grow significantly the coming years, but biodegradable plastics of course offer companies the best environmental benefits as they can be composted or recycled. Even within biodegrable bioplastics you can opt for very different methods. To use more technical terms PLA and Mater-BI variants of biodegradable plastics will provide the very best in sustainable packaging. Why you might ask? These variants are made of sustainable materials, they can be composted or recycled after use AND they are produced in an ethical way.

2. Fiber pulp from tomato plants as packaging material

Biodegradable plastics made from fiber pulp can become carbon-free recyclable packagingOf course Coca Cola isn’t the only example in the world. Researchers from Wageningen University (The Netherlands) show that to be sustainable often requires a creative approach. They discovered that the fiber pulp from tomato plants can be used to produce packaging material that even smells like tomatoes. The packaging could be used for many products from ketchup, vegetables to fast food packaging. But the most effective use might be for the tomato growers themselves. By producing their own packaging they would be able to reduce their carbon footprint and save money, while being able to present their products in a more attractive manner.

3. By-product of red meat industry to be used in bioplastics

Another promising initiative – not kosher but no less inspiring – is the use of by-products of the red meat and poultry industry to create bioplastics. A New Zealand based biopolymers company is currently developing bioplastic using bloodmeal to create plastics for the manufacturing sector. As with the previous examples, the aim is to reduce the effect of petrochemical plastics on the environment.

4. Producing biodegradable bioplastics from algae

Bioplastics company Algix has partnered with the University of Georgia and Kimberly-Clarck to commercialize the cultivation of aquatic biomass, such as algae, for bioplastic conversion. The company is developing customized bioplastic formulations for industrial, commercial and retail applications. The market of bioplastics is still young, but the demand for sustainable packaging is high. We have no doubt in just a few years innovation will lead us to a market where biodegrable plastics are the norm and plastic waste is a thing of the past.