We learned last week just how badly we need new, innovative packaging options.
Single-use plastics are on their way out.
Out to sea. Out of style. And Outlawed in China!
We need new packaging alternatives that meet government and planetary needs.
As eco-friendly packaging becomes increasingly trendy, companies are trying to look sustainable by adopting easy solutions. Like, switching to cardboard or paper.
Adding a sticker that says ‘biodegradable’.
But it doesn’t quite work that way.
Most plastics are made of petroleum and take 100s of years to degrade.
Today’s most common plastics are made out of petroleum. Oil-based. They are durable, affordable, convenient … but take hundreds of years to degrade.
Hence our oceans are full of them.
Among sustainable packaging alternatives, bioplastics emerge as one of the most promising because of their ability to biodegrade.
But what exactly are bioplastics?
Bioplastics are biodegradable plastics made from plant-based raw materials.
Bioplastics are a new generation of plastics made from plant-based raw materials rather than fossil fuels. Think starch, cellulose, soy protein, lactic acid, etc.
Due to the plant-based nature of their make-up, bioplastics can degrade. Meaning they break down and essentially disappear. Absorbed into the environment.
There are designated industrial composting facilities to degrade bioplastics in a short amount of time.
Bioplastics have different properties that affect how they degrade.
You’ve probably seen these on product labels.
Two of the most commonly found are:
Let’s get technical for a second: According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM): biodegradables are anything that undergoes degradation resulting from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.
Ok, so biodegradables break down with help from nature.
The ASTM defines compostable materials as anything that undergoes degradation by biological processes, but that also:
1. creates carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass
2. at a rate of time consistent with other compostable materials (~90 days), and that
3. don’t leave any visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.
Said again: Compostable plastics break down into natural elements in ~90 days and leaves no trace of residue.
But wait. These don’t sound mutually exclusive.
Because they aren’t.
All compostable materials are biodegradable. Not all biodegradable materials are compostable.
Biodegradable plastics return to nature. They disappear. Either without a trace or, by definition, they can leave behind residues.
Compostable plastics, on the other hand, are not allowed to leave a trace of foreign residues when returning to nature.
Instead, compostable plastics create biological nutrients. Food for plants and vegetation.
Is it too much to ask that tomorrow’s packaging actually benefit the planet?
We don’t think so!
In the right conditions, composting is a faster process and can greatly benefit the environment. Those conditions are often found in an industrial compost facility.
Meet Bioplastic suppliers and learn about other plastic-alternatives at our ‘Future of Packaging’ event.
Scan and sign-up to not miss important news and announcements on the ‘Future of Packaging'.
If you have expertise to share in bioplastics, please contact us at Pauline.Soudy@feiy.co
Let’s build a greener future one box at a time.
In case you missed it! Read: What’s The Big Deal About Plastic Packaging?
Stay tuned for the next article in our Packaging Alternatives series: Paper vs. Plastic.