Is it the right solution for my packaging moving forward? What solutions can you offer? Why can’t I just switch to a biodegradable plastic film now?
Our team have put together the top 7 myths we’re tired of hearing about biodegradable packaging.
This isn’t always the case. Biodegradable plastics can be made from naturally based materials such as corn starch Polylactic Acid (PLA), but some are produced using petrochemicals containing biodegradable additives that enhance biodegradation.
So strictly the definition of biodegradation is the disintegration of materials by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi or other biological means. But when it comes to packaging materials there is no set definition of ‘biodegradability.’
Some biodegradable materials don’t biodegrade, others require extremely specific conditions and even then, bioplastics made with petrochemicals can leave behind toxins and small plastic residue that contaminates the soil and makes it unsuitable for composting.
There needs to be scientific evidence to support the fact that packaging can biodegrade over time in the type of conditions typically found in a home composter.
If a material is truly biodegradable, the packaging may have a number of certifications. In the UK, there are several certifications that let customers know they are suitable for industrial composting or composting at home. You might want to read some more information on the different types of compostable certifications over on our blog here.
In theory, yes. However, the majority of biodegradable plastics available on the market today are only certified to decompose in ‘industrial facilities.’ Which sounds great, but consumers soon encounter problems when locating their nearest industrial composting facility, as there won’t be a curbside collection arranged by local authorities any time soon.
Many consumers may also place the biodegradable plastic into the plastic recycling bin. This not only contaminates the plastic waste stream, but it can also undermine and distract from the efforts to improve plastic recycling infrastructure.
Failing both of the above, the material may still end up in the usual landfill sites, making the whole process a waste of time, money and resources.
Firstly, there have never really been any conclusive tests that tell us for a fact, how long plastic takes to completely break down. What we do know is that nothing degrades in a landfill, and even if biodegradable plastics did manage to break down somewhat they would release methane, a greenhouse gas more damaging to the environment than CO2.
Say we did abolish PET oil-based films and replaced all plastics with bio-plastics such as corn starch PLA films. Would we simply be replacing one unsustainable source with another? With 795 million people in the world without enough food to lead a healthy active life, doesn’t it suggest a moral issue with the idea of growing crops for packaging and not for people?
Well, this is where biodegradable plastics become the biggest paradox for food packaging. You want a material to degrade over time but you also want to keep your produce as fresh as possible for the longest period of time. Hmm.
On paper, PLA films have approximately 6 months shelf life, from production. That’s before the finished packaging is manufactured, a product is packed and then shipped, sold and consumed. For dry products with short sales windows, Paper/PLA combinations are a great combination but for longer shelf life and exporting it’s just not a feasible solution.
This month we launched our Sustainability series, outlining our commitment to sustainability as well as providing a free eBook for all our followers on the “Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Packaging”. If you’re looking for more information on biodegradable packaging and feasible solutions for your packaging today, then we suggest you grab a coffee and settle in with our eBook.