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09 Mar 2016 by Julian Stotz - Bell Schweiz AG (6) with 1 answer

What do you think of the use of BioPlastics (renewable or even biodegradable) for food packaging?

Composites (flexible Plastic Materials) Plastic Packaging Materials


I published my opinion on that topic already - please find the key message hereafter:

"Foodstuffs are no longer regarded just as an individual product, but are seen in a broader context. An important role is played here by the packaging. Consumers are increasingly demanding ethically and ecologically impeccable products, also with respect to the packaging. In order to meet this trend towards holistic product consideration, the industry is trying to produce more environmentally friendly – and hence sustainable – packaging through material reduction and/or material substitution by biopolymers. All these activities only contribute to sustainability, however, if it can be ensured that the protection of the packed goods is assured, as the value of the resources input into and tied up in the foodstuffs is far higher than that of those in the packaging. This can be seen clearly from the example of roasted coffee. Here the total energy input into and tied up in the coffee represents 90%, while the energy input into and tied up in the packaging is only 10%. This naturally varies from foodstuff to foodstuff. Nevertheless we can conclude that a product loss resulting from the use of unsuitable packaging materials cannot be compensated by savings in packaging materials. The first priority in the development and application of new, more sustainable packaging concepts must therefore be adequate protection of the product. A reduction in material only contributes to sustainability if the protection of the product remains assured. If, for example, an existing packaging material satisfies precisely the minimum requirements with respect to the permeation properties, a further reduction in the material is only possible by optimizing the material properties. An additional opportunity of improving the sustainability of packaging systems is offered by material substitution where i.a. petrochemicals-based materials are replaced by "biopolymers". The term "biopolymers" often causes confusion. According to the currently most commonly used definition, a biopolymer is a polymer material that either consists of bio-based (renewable) raw materials and/or that is biologically degradable. Although this definition is accepted by experts as being generally valid, it is still neither regulated by law nor standardized. The European Bioplastics industrial association also takes the view that this definition is appropriate for the term "biopolymer". Taken at face value, the term biopolymer implies sustainability. Biopolymers do have weaknesses, however, also and particularly when it comes to their use as a packaging material for sensetive foodstuffs. While biopolymers can completely cover the whole range of conventional film materials with respect to their mechanical properties, their barrier properties are still very limited (espcially for the biodegradable ones). Particularly for application as a packaging material for sensitive foodstuffs such as butchery products, their barrier properties are generally not sufficient to adequately protect the products." However, there are also several applications for biopolymers thinkable, where they can be a suitable and good alternative to their petrochemical counterparts (e.g. Fresh Produce, etc.)

Original Title, References and further reading: SCHMID, M. & AGULLA, K. 2012. Both Ecological and Economical. Kunststoffe International. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag.

Best regards

Markus Schmid

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