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Innovation in Sustainable Packaging – Are Bioplastics the future?

According to Planetly, the F&B industry is responsible for 1/3 of global emissions. Hence the importance of the work being done across our industry to reduce the impact on our planet, most recently the drive to become Carbon Negative. From Behemoths such as Mondelez aiming for 2050 and UK brands such as Yorkshire Tea already sitting at carbon neutral, the gauntlet has well and truly been laid down.

 

As we all know, plastics and other packaging materials flooding into landfill are a huge factor in the crisis we are all facing. Bioplastics, which are plastics made from renewal biomass such as sugarcane, woodchips, and vegetable fats, have been lauded as the potential solution…but are they? Yes, bioplastics are produced from renewable resources, increase soil fertility and manufacturing produces up to 80% less greenhouse gases than oil-based plastics. However, their biodegradable halo is not what it seems. Bioplastics can breakdown in 12 weeks vs up to 100 years for plastics, but these require industrial composting sites which are few and far between with huge quantities of bioplastics ending up in landfill.

 

The reality of it is that until the composting and recycling system is functioning properly, much of the technological advances in packaging cannot be executed effectively in the market.
In the recent study The Pew Report, the conclusion was made that reduction and reusage coupled with requiring companies that produce waste to participate in identifying and execution the solution would be the most effective approach.

 

To this end, schemes such as Terracycle have been partnering with brands such as Pringle and Ferrero to provide specialist recycling programmes with both drop off points and onsite in retail locations. Is it realistic to think that consumers would bring used packaging to store for disposal or reuse? Well we probably didn’t think that the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags would instigate a 95% reduction in their usage… and here we are!

 

So maybe what we need to do is encourage businesses to take real steps to reduce their impact, whilst encouraging consumers to reuse and recycle with tangible schemes and supporting marketing. The old ‘Just Do It!’ adage springs to mind!

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