Biodegradable Packaging Solutions for a Sustainable Future

Biodegradable Packaging Solutions for a Sustainable Future
Published On:September 7, 2021 Revised On:December 27, 2023

Packaging is essential for guaranteeing long shelf life, food safety, and reducing food waste in fresh products. It protects its contents from weather, eases transportation, provides information, makes stocking more convenient, promotes and communicates the product’s value, keeps consumers safe, and is environmentally responsible.

Companies have traditionally manufactured packaging without regard to where it would end after it reached the consumer. Packaging such as plastic, styrofoam, and other materials may protect products but are not environmentally friendly. Today, the globe is moving towards a more eco-friendly environment due to the rise in global temperature issues.

Additionally, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, people stuck at home start to contemplate their purchases and focus on sustainability. PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey further supports this shift in consumer trend, where 50% of 8600+ consumers surveyed globally say they have become more eco-friendly.

Due to this shift in consumer trends and sustainability being an important issue, businesses seek alternatives for packaging. Furthermore, packaging also impacts how people interact with companies about their products and services; thus, using biodegradable packaging products could also give a positive image of the company as environmentally friendly.

When plastic was first produced, it was highly durable as it did not decompose naturally like biological stuff. However, there were concerns as the long-lasting nature of plastic was a major contributor to landfills and ocean pollution. Thus, a new solution, biodegradable plastic, came to be.

What is Biodegradable Plastic?

Biodegradable plastic is a synthetic substance that can degrade over time in the presence of living organisms, regardless of its source materials. These chemical additives that biodegradable plastics contain eventually break down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass (leftover material), none of which harms the environment. The ability of biodegradable plastics to decompose naturally and quickly over time distinguishes them from other polymers, which typically take hundreds of years to degrade.

The decomposition process is accomplished when bacteria and fungus in the surrounding environment metabolise the plastic components in the presence of light and air, assisting in the further decomposition of a biodegradable plastic structure. As a result, biodegradable plastics are more environmentally friendly than regular plastics due to their significant environmental advantages.

However, petrochemical plastics, also referred to as regular plastics, are used to make biodegradable plastics, which explains why they may leave hazardous residue and sometimes are generally undesirable for composting. Some common biodegradable plastics include Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), Polylactic acid (PLAs), plant starch blends (like corn starch), and cellulose-based plastics.

Benefits of Biodegradable Plastics

While biodegradable plastics offer significant advantages, it’s important to understand their effectiveness in reducing environmental harm depends on proper disposal methods and suitable conditions for biodegradation. Additionally, some challenges, such as cost and performance, may still need to be addressed as the industry evolves.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

According to studies, one of the biggest worries of many consumers regarding product packaging is the Carbon footprint, known as the number of greenhouse gases released into the environment due to human activities.

Each stage of the manufacturing process, from raw material extraction to manufacturing, shipping, and consumer use, emits a certain amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Biodegradable packaging/plastics use various techniques in each process and are made from highly recyclable materials that do not produce hazardous chemical leachate or off-gassing that causes air pollution.

Biodegradable packaging typically uses less energy and emits 68 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than petroleum-based plastics, lowering overall carbon emissions and our usage of heavy-energy resources. By purchasing from companies that use eco-friendly packaging to ensure that waste does not end up in other environments, thereby reducing the overall carbon footprint.

Toxic and Allergens Free

With the rise in demand for biodegradable/eco-friendly packaging, many people are concerned about the composition of their packaging and the potential impact it may have on their health and well-being.

Most regular plastics are manufactured from non-sustainable petrochemical resources such as crude oil, which are highly detrimental to the environment regarding extraction, refinement, distribution, use, and disposal. Unlike traditional packaging made from synthetic and chemical materials, most biodegradable plastic packaging products are non-toxic and made from allergy-free materials, making them less harmful to consumers and manufacturers.

Reduce Waste

Since biodegradable plastics degrade over time, they reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators. This improves waste management because less waste takes up landfill space, freeing up land for other uses. It also reduces waste burning in incinerators, which emits harmful chemicals into the environment. Thus, biodegradable plastic is beneficial to the environment because it degrades in a landfill and is not required to be burned.

Recyclable and Flexible

Biodegradable plastics are recyclable. When discarded, these plastics decompose faster and can be easily recycled using an organic process. Biodegradable plastics are also non-toxic because they are free of chemicals and toxins. Thus, the recycled bio-waste can also be used as compost or as renewable energy for biogas production. Furthermore, biodegradable plastic products are flexible when converted into polymers so that they can be combined with traditional plastic-making products. As a result, no new products are required to produce biodegradable plastic products.

Biodegradable Packaging Products

The shift towards more sustainable packaging solutions has given rise to a variety of biodegradable packaging products that are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic packaging.  Below are the two biodegradable packaging products available at Stream Peak as alternatives for packaging:

Biodegradable Plastic Bag

Stream Peak’s biodegradable plastic bag is made from biodegradable materials combined with traditional plastics to enhance its necessary qualities through a proprietary manufacturing process. This process consists of the conversion of potato plant-based carbohydrates to an amorphous and natural biobased polymer.

The polymer is then combined with conventional and recycled plastic materials and bioplastics to enhance qualities such as durability and lightweight without devaluing them from the polymer’s biodegradability. Plant-based plastic bags are far more durable than fossil-fuel-based bags.

Combining plant-based polymers and regular plastics increases the tensile strength of the plastic bags, making them extremely durable while remaining lightweight. With decomposition and recyclability in mind, Stream Peak’s biodegradable plastic bag is made from biodegradable products, allowing it to decompose and disintegrate into water, carbon dioxide, or biomass over a 7-cycle recycling process without releasing toxins into the environment. Reduce carbon footprint with Stream Peak’s 100% USA Biobased Certified Biodegradable Plastic Bag.

VCI Biodegradable Bag

Stream Peak’s VCI biodegradable bag is made with the latest biodegradable polymer technology. It is incorporated with exceptional rust prevention volatile corrosion inhibitors (VCI’s) to protect ferrous and most non-ferrous metal products during transportation and storage. The bag is designed to be robust and transparent, providing the desired technical qualities while meeting environmental regulations.

When disposed of, the VCI Biodegradable Bag degrades naturally into materials such as biomass in the presence of microorganisms, with or without light, and the decomposition process does not contribute to pollution in any way. By minimising the supply of traditional plastics in the market, we can help tackle pollution problems from the supply chain and improve the prospects for a future free of plastic pollution.