Biosphere expands potential of biodegradable packaging

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Related tags: Biodegradation

Biosphere Industries' new starch-based moisture resistant packaging
material - PPM100 - is the latest natural raw material to achieve
approval from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).

The certification demonstrates that this new material meets the specifications in ASTM D6868 and will biodegrade swiftly and safely during municipal, commercial, or household composting. Biosphere claims that its new material, PPM100, has properties comparable to polystyrene foam and can be used for food service applications as well as general packaging.

"Our new products are among the first biodegradable materials that are ovenable, microwaveable, and provide good insulating properties, while being made mainly from natural, annually renewable raw materials,"​ said Biosphere chief scientist Dr David Dellinger.

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.

Biosphere's new packaging is one of a growing number of materials approved by BPI that is composed mainly of natural, annually renewable raw materials rather than synthetic polymers that have been engineered for biodegradability. Indeed, BPI's approval of Biosphere's products expands the array of compostable alternatives that are currently being marketed.

Cargill Dow's NaturalWorks PLA was the first commercially viable biopolymer to be derived from corn. The chemical giant claims that the product performs equal to or better than traditional resins, and it is of course much more environmentally friendly.

Like PET, the corn-based plastic permits a multitude of varied and complex bottle shapes and sizes that draw the attention of the consumer. Monolayer bottles of NatureWorks PLA can be formed on the same injection-moulding/stretch blow-moulding equipment used for PET, with no sacrifice in production rate.

The concept behind NaturalWorks PLA is relatively simple. Cargill essentially "harvests" the carbon from corn, 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. Starch-based packaging derived from raw material such as corn is therefore 100 per cent nature-based.

"Products such as these make sense when the waste stream can be diverted to a composting facility, rather than to a landfill or incinerator,"​ said Steve Mojo, BPI executive director. "Today, there are residential and commercial food scrap programmes in place from San Francisco to Prince Edward Island, Canada,"​ said Mojo.

By replacing non-degradable items with compostable materials, these communities are able to divert and compost large parts of the waste stream, while helping composters reduce processing, separation and disposal costs.

Biosphere Industries​ manufacturers packaging for the food and general rigid consumer packaging markets. "All our product lines are formulated towards maximising the use of regional raw materials to benefit local communities whenever possible and when combined with compostable clear films for secondary packaging, we offer a 100 per cent biodegradable packaging solution that can be treated like a potato or tortilla chip for disposal,"​ said Biosphere CEO Elie Helou.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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