Bioplastics make good business sense
One of the most visible places for change is in the foodservice business. There are a myriad of options available now to replace traditional plastic with bioplastic, with more products being added all the time.
All other things being equal, independent research has shown a majority of customers would patronize a business that is “green” over one that isn’t. As environmental awareness rises in the general population, consumer demand for sustainable products and offerings is also rising.
Showing customers that you actively support the environment by sending them away with their purchases in recyclable and compostable packaging is not only good for business, it’s good for the planet.
Sustainable, safer and cleaner
Using renewable, biomass sources to manufacture bioplastics helps to lessen our dependence on oil. As more businesses switch to using bioplastics, the more it will help reduce that dependence and could save them serious money as petroleum prices rise.
Up to 65% less energy is needed to produce bioplastics than petroleum-based plastics. And no hydrocarbons are released when bioplastics are properly composted.
Bioplastics are non-toxic, so they’re safe for food and do not impart flavors. They are also safer for the environment, and in optimum conditions, will degrade at an exponentially faster rate than traditional plastic.
Bioplastics are a biodegradable alternative to petroleum-based plastics
Sourced from biomass, bioplastic products are typically made from plant matter such as vegetable starch, cane sugar, soy protein, cellulose (wood fibers) and lactic acid. In the foodservice industry, applications range from clear food trays and containers to organic waste bags.
Most bioplastics today are engineered to be compostable and to biodegrade safely in a properly managed, municipal composting facility. In this environment, biodegradation occurs in a combination of water, heat and microbial activity, resulting in a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor, which is completely mineralized by microorganisms and turned into humus, or compost.
Standards that these products meet, such as ASTM D6400 and D6868 can help ensure the products you buy are compostable.
There are some bio-based, bioplastic products that do contain petroleum-derived additives, however these polymers have been engineered to safely biodegrade and properly compost.
Bioplastic Packaging Products
Continued improvements and new developments in bioplastics have led to the large-scale manufacture of sustainable products that can compete successfully in today’s marketplace — in features, performance, and price. Natureworks Packaging carries some of the most common ones:
|Product||Brand Name||Sample Products|
|Cellophane: Plastic made from wood.
Composed from cellulose, a tree and plant component, cellophane is one of the first plastics ever made.
It can be obtained through sustainable growing practices or as byproducts of wood harvest.
|Natureworks Packaging® carries cellophane products made with NatureWorks a 100% cellulose bioplastic with excellent oxygen, grease, oil and moisture barrier characteristics.
Uncoated 100% biodegradable NatureFlex bags generally biodegrade in 28-60 days.
NatureFlex™ by Innovia Films (U.K.) is a major source of renewable cellophane film.
|Cellophane is used for packaging film applications like, food wrap, and transparent food bags.
(Most other film products called cellophane actually have a layer of petroleum-based plastic such as PVC.)
|PLA (Polylactic Acid) is plastic made from vegetable starch.
A clear alternative for food packaging, it resembles common petrochemical-based plastic, such as PET (polyethylene terpthalate) and PS (polystyrene).
|Most PLA is marketed as Ingeo™ by U.S. company NatureWorks LLC.NatureWorks, LLC ferments animal-feed corn dextrose into lactic acid. The compound is converted to lactide, and the molecules are linked into long chains or polymers becoming polylactic acid, PLA.||Clear cold drink cups, coated paper cups, deli and takeout containers, and fresh produce packaging are among the widely available PLA consumer products.|
|PSM (Plastarch material)
A high heat resistant bioplastic made from plant starch and cellulose, with natural modifiying agents for a range of applications.
|China based Huali Eco-Tech uses plant starch and cellulose raw materials to produce PSM.
PSM is a biodegradable, compostable and non-toxic thermoplastic resin that, like conventional plastic, is water-and oil-proof. It has a high endurance for cold and heat and is microwave safe.
|SpudWare high heat cutlery.|
|Other natural polymers
Composed mainly from starch, they have a range of applications in markets currently dominated by petroleum-based materials.
|Italy-based Novamont is a leading supplier of a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-free, starch-based plastic called Mater-Bi used to make BioBag branded biodegradable bags.BioBag® is the world’s largest brand of 100% biodegradable and certified compostable bags and films made from Mater-Bi.||Products include shopping bags, waste bags, and food service items such as plates and cutlery.|
|TPS (Thermoplastic starch)
Made of the corn-starch derived amylose molecule, whose special chemical properties allow for a wide range of applications in product manufacture.
|Australia-based Plantic Technologies uses non-GMO corn starch to produce their bioplastic resin. Used for food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical packaging, it can also be modified for thermoforming, injection moulding, film extrusion and blow moulding, as well as rigid and flexible packaging.
eco Plastic™ is produced from a range of compounded resins with low carbon footprint and high renewable content based on Plantic’s resin.