Compostable Materials - A Sustainable Replacement Of Petroleum Based Packaging?
This essay starts at the beginning, establishing the functional, cyclic ecological system and ours absolute dependance on it. Moving onto a brief, historical, introduction of the shift from organic to mechanical production in the arena of the Industrial Revolution, in which linear production and the concept of waste emerged.
The second chapter looks into the different levels of the problems evolving petroleum based plastic. Starting off on a molecular level, ending at the global, massive and urgent problem of plastic pollution, as The European Commission describes it. It further more presents facts on why the waste handling and recycling methods and practices today, are a insufficient system and potentially dangerous. The aim is to identify plastic packaging as the root of the problem where, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, half of the total production of packaging can’t be reused or recycled.
The third chapter investigates if compostable materials could be a valid replacement for conventional plastics in packaging. Starting off by explaining the basic functions of compostability and its supremacy over non degradable plastics. Moreover by showing visual examples of an interesting mix of innovative compostable materials such as sand packaging and shrimp-plastic. It is then followed by a short, visual, introduction of Natureflex, as an example of how compostable packaging could be successfully applied with the same function, look and feel, as conventional plastic in flexible packaging. Further on the political interventions and market predictions are examined, where countries such as France have outlawed disposable plastic bags and tableware and according to Market Researcher Technavio will compostable packaging ”emerge as a key trend in the global e-commerce packaging market until 2020. This essay aims to examine arguments, concerns and obstacles on why compostable packaging couldn’t and shouldn’t be considered as an ultimate solution to the problem of compostable plastic, discussed in the topics of renewable feedstock, related infrastructure and throw away culture posed today.
Lastly it aims to unravel the discussion of what additionally needs to be changed in order to reach sustainable design solution and why, simply changing material isn’t enough. Three views are presented by William McDonough and Michael Braggarts, authors of the book Cradle to Cradle who emphasis the importance of considering the whole life cycle and process in design. Followed by the essay “Design Of Scarcity”, written by Jon Goodman, Michael Klien, Andreas Rumpfhuber and Jeremy Hill in which they critic the current economical system and argue design needs to take it’s cues from outside existing economical models. Lastly, authors of Design for Sustainable Change, Anne Chick and Paul Mickletwaite talks about the emerging field of design thinking as a tool to engage the field of design and designers more actively in societal and environmental challenges.
This essay leads to the conclusion that compostable packaging is a valid replacement for conventional disposable plastic packaging. It could be created in such a way that would benefit humans, environment and the economy. However it’s also the conclusion that changing material is not enough. To create significant sustainable development over a longer period of time additional vital concerns need to be considered to obtain sustainable designs and development. If not we might end up with the solving of one problem, only to then create another.