For many products, using bio-based packaging can be an excellent way for a company to reduce its carbon footprint. Bioplastic materials can be used to create packaging for food and retail products, and is becoming more and more common. Take a look at some quick facts about bio-based packaging and materials.
1. We Use Renewable Materials
For roughly half of all bio-based packaging, companies will use plastics sourced from plant starch, such as corn or potato starch. These thermoform starch plastics can be transformed into everything from yogurt pots to plastic forks and spoons and much more.
For instance, polylactic acid, or PLA, is a type of bio-based plastic that, in many ways, resembles other synthetic plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP). To produce PLA, we typically use corn, sugarcane or wheat, which is fermented and transformed into lactic acid and then it undergoes a process known as polymerization. Unfortunately, while PLA can’t be used for some types of bio-based packaging, it can’t be used for containers that will be exposed to heat, as it has a low melting point.
Bio-based PET and HDPE (high-density polyethylene), sourced from sugar cane or molasses also has been developed, and some manufacturers will create bottles or packaging using these materials. For instance, the Coca-Cola Company uses plant-based HDPE materials to create its line of Odwalla smoothie bottles.
2. Most Bioplastics Are Recyclable
At Indepak, just about every material we use is recyclable, whether it is derived from starch or not. Many bioplastic materials can be recycled, such as bio-based PET and HDPE. While plastic manufacturers always place Resin Identification Codes on their plastic packaging, it is helpful for consumers if you put it somewhere on your label, as well, so that they know in which bin to place the used packaging. And, of course, why not highlight that you are using renewable and recyclable materials? Many consumers specifically look for the most sustainable packaging options, and this can draw in new customers to your brand.
3. Some Bioplastics Are Compostable Or Biodegradable
Of course, there is some confusion with bio-based packaging as some bioplastics are recyclable and some are either biodegradable or compostable. A compostable bioplastic can be placed in a compost bin, and a recyclable bioplastic can be placed in a recycling bin, but the biodegradable package is another kettle of fish altogether.
Biodegradable plastics must be taken to a special facility for processing. A biodegradable plastic will not biodegrade in a landfill, nor will it biodegrade in a composting facility. This makes it tough for the consumer as it’s not always easy for people to find a biodegrading facility. Still, using biodegradable bioplastics means you are still using a renewable source for your packaging, so if your packaging is typically not the type that most people recycle, biodegradable materials might be a good choice.
4.Bio-Based Packaging Can Cost More
In general, thermoform plastics are some of the least expensive packaging materials on the planet, especially when you factor in their ability to preserve and protect your products. Bio-based packaging usually does have a higher price tag than synthetic thermoform materials, but it still can be quite affordable. If you have a product geared specifically to customers that tend to make choices based on environmental concerns, it can be well worth the extra cost to provide these customers with options that are acceptable to them. Additionally, as the demand for bioplastics increases, the costs will go down.
5. You Can Build A Car Out Of Bioplastics
Henry Ford once made a car with a body built entirely from soybeans and other renewable materials, such as wheat and hemp. While the car was much lighter than traditional cars built from steel, and potentially safer, development was halted when the United States entered World War II, and the car was destroyed and the project largely forgotten. Of course, many components of today’s vehicles are built using thermoform or thermoset plastics and some car manufacturers are using bioplastic materials to create these parts.
If you are interesting in learning more about our sustainable packaging options, including bio-based packaging, contact the team at Indepak. We can provide you with recyclable materials, materials with recycled content, combination designs that include plastic and pulp, as well as packaging created from starch-based bioplastics.