Biopolymers set to shine at Interpack 2005

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Related tags: Plastic, Western europe

Biopolymers, increasingly seen as a highly promising development in
the plastics industry, will be on special display at Interpack
2005, writes Anthony Fletcher.

A special presentation during Interpack, called Innovationparc, Bioplastics in Packaging​, will involve 20 companies and bring visitors up to date with the latest developments and prospects for these materials.

Packaging, and for that matter food firms, are increasingly aware that developing materials based on renewable materials, as opposed to fossil resources, is an effective means of improving environmental performance. The idea is that by using nature's closed-loop carbon cycle, waste is kept to an absolute minimum.

The packaging industry is an obvious target for attempts at reducing plastic waste. At 38.1 per cent, packaging is by far the largest consumer of plastic, which in 2002 totalled over 38 million tonnes in Western Europe.

Packaging firms are beginning to take the initiative. While corporate activity in the field was previously concentrated in Europe, Japan and the US, today a great many companies in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Korea and Taiwan have also taken up the cause.

Expanding production capacity means that new sectors beyond the more established application niches are starting to develop. And packaging, the biggest segment for plastics, has recently recorded dynamic growth.

European consumption of bioplastics is estimated at around 40,000 tonnes for 2003 - twice what is was in 2001. Biodegradable plastic packaging has subsequently found its way into numerous supermarkets across Europe.

Particularly in the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, leading retail chains are running trials with products of this kind or have already included them in their ranges. A large proportion of this packaging is dedicated to fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables.

For a number of reasons, not least among them high oil prices, the future of packaging manufactured from renewable resources is predicted to develop much further. Indeed, traditional packaging firms have been hit hard by high oil prices, which struck $50 a barrel for the first time since November last week.

Steadily increasing production costs has meant that the price of plastic packaging derived from petroleum and natural gas has risen inexorably over the past 12 months.

Biopolymers are therefore increasingly being seen as a cost-effective alternative. Manufacturers have a selection of different starches - such as wheat, potato or corn - to choose from, giving them a fair degree of purchasing flexibility.

That flexibility could help them keep their prices competitive with, say, polystyrene items.

A purpose-built hall to house Innovationparc, Bioplastics in Packaging​ will be found in the open area close to Hall 9 at Interpack 2005​.Leading manufacturers and processors of bioplastics and the sponsoring organisation, the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), will be on hand to provide information.

Background information to the technology will be presented in the form of talks and panel discussions. Topics will include the economic and legal conditions surrounding a market launch, quality assurance measures, new waste recycling options as well as sales opportunities and applications.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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