While a number of companies have developed biodegradable food packaging alternatives to poly vinyl chloride (PVC), the price has generally been prohibitive. However with the recent price hikes inthe price of oil, the main component of PVC, such green alternatives have become more competitive on the market.
The food stretch film market mainly uses PVC, which does not biodegrade, making it and the companies that use it targets of environmental lobby groups. A growing number of food industry companies,including supermarkets and processors, have turned to biodegradable packaging as a means of meeting consumer demand for such ecofriendly products.
Local and national governments in North America and Europe are also considering limiting the use of PVC products. Several European countries, Japan and the State of New York, have alreadyintroduced restrictions and legislation on the use of PVC in the food wrap industry.
Toronto-based Diamant does not use PVC in its recyclable stretch film. The plasticizer-free film has been certified by the Environmental Choice Program, an agency set up by the Canadian governmentas part of a worldwide ecolabelling programme to promote environmentally-friendly products.
Diamant originally marketed its polystyrene-based stretch film as a non-plasticized food wrap that was eco-friendly and recycable. The company developed the technology over the course of ten yearsas an alternative to PVC.
The company estimates the market for plastic stretch film in North America at about US$597 million.
Now the company has decided to get into pallet wrapping. The company announced this week that Bio-Plastics, a subsidiary, had sent its oxo-biodegradable pallet wrap samples for testing to one ofits US distributors as a means of entering the market.
"This product will degrade and ultimately biograde, and once biodegrading is complete all that remains is carbon dioxide, water and biomass, all which are part of the normalbio-cycle," Diamant started in a press release.
Bio-Plastics was formed to develop and acquire new products and technologies for the manufacturing of totally biodegradable products.
Diamant is using EPI Environmental Technologies' TDPA (Totally Degradable Plastic Additive) product for manufacturing the pallet wrap.
When incorporated into commodity plastic resins, such as polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS), the TDPA additives renders the plastics degradable and ultimately biodegradable.
US-registered EPI has its headquarters in Canada and has a subsidiary in the UK.
Many analysts believe that biodegradable packaging has a bright future. Growing environmental awareness and consumer power means that food manufacturers and packagers are increasingly beingtargeted to improve their environmental performances.
Other companies like Diamant are also targeting the market. In addition, a combination of pricing and retail uptake has led more and more processors to look at biodegradable natural polymerproducts such as PLA as an alternative to polyethyleneterephthalate (PET). US-based NatureWorks, a Cargill unit also produces PLA, and iss a major competitor to Stanelco's product.
Other companies manufacturing biodegradable packaging inputs for the food industry include NatureWorks, which makes polylactic acid (PLA) from corn, as an alternative to polyethylene terephthalate(PET).
Retailers like Auchan in France are already using the PLA in packaging for salads, switching from PET in April this year. Auchan buys its PLA from NatureWorks. By December the retailer will use PLAfor its pastry and plans to make the switch for its private label food products next year, said Martial Guglielmi, the company's packaging purchasing manager.
Delhaize has also made the move, testing NatureWorks' PLA in packaging at a store in Belgium. Signs and labels alert consumers that a range of food containers are made from renewable resources, areenvironmentally-friendly and compost.
This week Cascades, a Canadian based packaging firm said it would offer a new product line of compostable plastic containers made from NatureWorks' PLA. The company has 140 production units inNorth America, Europe and Asia.