The 100% biodegradable product is already in use in the US, and supplier TIPA is set to announce a number of UK brand partnerships in the next few months.
Advanced bio-plastics materials
TIPA was set up by software engineer Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO, and industrial designer Tal Neuman, senior vice president of products, in Israel in June 2010. It now has a large R&D team, bio-plastic manufacturing team and sales and marketing departments, with a subsidiary sales office in the US.
Products include co-extruded high-transparent films for fresh produce, coffee, bakery, grain-mill products and transparent and non-transparent sealable plastic bags and stand-up pouches for granola bars, potato chips, snacks, grains and dried foods, which are already sold in the EU and US.
Nissenbaum told BakeryandSnacks TIPA’s vision is for flexible plastic packaging to have the same end-of-life properties as organic waste but still give consumers and brands the same durability and shelf life they have come to expect of ordinary plastics for foods including: fresh produce, chilled and frozen food, and dairy products.
“Flexible packaging isn’t made of pure plastic polymers but made by blending several materials which make recycling nearly impossible,” she said.
“Even when some of the materials used for flexible packaging are bio-degradable, the very blending of materials makes the whole package unfit for recycling or composting.
“The vision behind TIPA was to resolve the challenge of creating sustainable flexible packaging by creating advanced bio-plastics materials. To do that, our company is made up of professional experts in chemistry and bio-plastics, industrial experts and food engineers.
"We are offering a new age of packaging, packing food the same way as nature does."
Nissenbaum added, even though bioplastic material has been in existence for a long time, it has been used for agriculture, waste bags, or simple applications, because the material failed on existing production lines.
'The task was complicated and full of difficulties'
She said the materials tended to break more easily and were sensitive to heat and humidity, with poor permeability rates, a yellowish color and lacked transparency.
“The task of developing a compostable package from scratch was complicated and full of difficulties, not least of which were regulatory, the lack of existing technology, as well as logistics and business development,” said Nissenbaum.
TIPA bases its technology on three steps;
- Resins series – it uses existing raw materials in a new way, modifying and controlling their properties and compounding them to resin blends, new materials with advanced properties.
- Films series – the 2nd step was defining unique structures, based on the new formulations, for co-extruded films to create films with similar mechanical, optical and barrier properties to conventional plastics like polypropylene or polyethylene. It developed several film types for standalone applications, barrier, sealing and printing films as required for food packaging applications.
- Laminates series – the 3rd step was designing high-quality laminates like the industry uses today. High barrier transparent or coated laminates printable and applicable on existing machinery – to produce a range of applications like pouches, zipper bags etc. The final packaging material can replace common conventional laminates used for dry and oily foods, fresh produce, bakery cold cuts, and snacks etc.
“It took hours of development time, but today TIPA has developed the first fully compostable eco-friendly barrier films and laminates with the necessary moisture and oxygen barrier properties to meet the required shelf life standards for a range of foods.
“This breakthrough allows for the replacement of non–recyclable flexible packaging with organically recyclable/compostable packaging. Not only can TIPA’s packages be diverted from landfills and incineration centers but, as an added value, they can serve as a feedstock for producing energy (e.g. bio-gas facilities) or land fertilizer (compost facilities).”
When co-founders Nissenbaum and Neuman started working together six years’ ago they wanted to design biodegradable water bags (TIPA is Hebrew for 'droplet'). They hired bio plastic experts to find the appropriate materials for the beverage bags but after six months they were told there were no biodegradable materials on the market that were suitable.
Same properties as conventional plastics
The duo decided, if TIPA biodegradable flexible packaging was to succeed, it would have to have all the qualities of traditional plastics, in terms of transparency, tensile strength and shelf life. It would also have to be fully compostable.
“The basic idea is actually an orange peel. A package that would behave like an orange peel. A biodegradable package that we can eat or drink the content and throw the package into the organic waste bin,” said Neuman.
“We created flexible food packaging that looks, feels and has the same properties as conventional plastics on one hand, but on the other hand – post consumption – degrades biologically and becomes a fertilizer that can be used to fertilize the soil again.
“The food industry operates on complicated, high-quality mechanical standards, which makes it difficult to come up with a compostable effective packaging to support both ecological and functionality requirements. This was the technological challenge we resolved.”
Nissenbaum will be speaking at Viva Technology, in Paris, tomorrow (June 30), in a seminar entitled ‘Solving the flexible packaging waste problem with technology'.