The company claims to be the first to manufacture and commercialise this type of packaging. After use, all products in the BioWare line can be returned to the earth through composting.
"BioWare is a commitment to the future and offers uncompromised performance with a lower environmental impact," said Timo Tiilikainen, marketing & development manager from Foodservice Europe in Huhtamaki.
"With this range Huhtamaki wants to help the foodservice operators to enhance their environmental image as well as offer an interesting option also from the waste handling point of view."
BioWare disposables are available across Europe to beverage companies, breweries and foodservice retailers.
"No compromises are made on the quality of the products; the beer and water cups are of high clarity and the plates sturdy and durable. All products can be customised to suit various events and operators," said Tiilikainen.
Many analysts believe that biodegradable packaging has a bright future. Growing environmental awareness and consumer power coupled with the inexorable rise in pre-packaged disposable meals means that food manufacturers and packagers are increasingly being targeted to improve their environmental performances.
Datamonitor statistics show that more than one-third of European consumers live alone and are spending €140 billion a year on food, drinks and personal care products. Single people spend 50 per cent more per person on consumer-packaged goods than a two adult household. Such trends underline why the environmental impact of food packaging has never been greater.
Huhtamaki's cold drink cups are made from a corn based resin called NatureWorks. The material is fully natural, made from annually renewable resources and certified for compostability.
Made from corn, NatureWorks is the first commercially viable biopolymer derived from an annually renewable resource that performs equal to or better than traditional resins. Packaging made from NatureWorks is 100 per cent nature-based and can degrade in industrial compost facilities.
The technology to produce NatureWorks essentially "harvests" the carbon, which plants remove from the air during photosynthesis and store in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars.
The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make plastic, called polylactide (PLA), through a simple process of fermentation, separation and polymerisation.
"We can run NatureWorks on our existing production lines," said Dietmar Johann, operations & logistics manager for Huhtamaki.
"To achieve this was a challenge which involved the best know how and resources in the group, but with full commitment we succeeded and now the lines run smoothly in industrial scale. Now we can offer our customers responsible choice without compromises in functionality."
The plates and bowls of the BioWare range are made from 100 per cent moulded fibre from Huhtamaki's own post-industrial paper cup cuttings. The company's European manufacturing unit in Norway operates a proprietary smooth-moulding process, and the origin of the fibre material is fully traceable.
"Interest for environmentally sound tableware has already been visible in the market, and now we have a solid supply of suitable raw materials available. We took the opportunity and built up a complete range, which we will continue to develop further," said Tiilikainen.
Compostable products are increasing in popularity. Alken Maes for example, the second largest Belgian brewery, successfully used the BioWare beer cups in the summer festivals in 2004 after which the cups were composted.
"We are excited to see the wide variety of applications NatureWorks PLA can have in the foodservice industry," said Lisa Owen, global business leader for rigid packaging, from the raw material supplier Cargill Dow.
"Huhtamaki's BioWare line demonstrates the value a nature-based material can bring to this industry."