Compostable Materials - A Sustainable Replacement Of Petroleum Based Packaging?
3.1 Compostable Packaging
- A "Worry-Free" Solution? -
A compostable compound biodegrades back into nature in a short period of time, leaving no visible trace and turns into nutrient compost without contaminating the soil or plants.(47) What this process produces is compost, also known as hummus, which is a very nutrient soil that is food for many creatures and plants. Healthy and nutrient rich soil is needed to produce new crops and life and can improve the quality of our soils and can, for example replace non-renewable fertilizers.(48)
When a compostable material is disposed it requires specific conditions to be able to biodegrade; the process can be started by heat, moisture, microbial enzymes, or other environmental conditions, depending upon the compound. When this process is complete only water, biomass, carbon dioxide or methane should be left (depending upon wether the process takes place under aerobic or anaerobic conditions).(49)
A compostable material can be made up by any organic matter. It can also look, feel and have the same functions as conventional plastic. Plastic is just a mass-calling-name for a polymeric materials, it is not limited to come from petroleum based feedstock. Compostable plastics can be derived out of cellulose (cellophane), corn (PHAs) and polylactic acid (PLA) which are renewable resources and can be designed compostable. This means that plastic does not have to become “waste” it can be designed to follow the ecological cycle and biodegrade safely back to Earth as a nutrient for plants and microorganisms. “Waste equals food”.(50)
“Why should individuals and communities be burdened with down cycling or landfilling? Worry-free packaging could safely decompose or be gathered and used as fertilisers, bringing the nutrient back to the soil”
- William McDonough and Michael Braungart,
Cradle to Cradle
There are many inspiring and innovative emerging packaging concepts for alternative organic raw-material that is compostable. Compostable plastics are however, particularly interesting in packaging applications for industrial production. Since the conventional ones are creating significant drawbacks. Compostable materials used in disposable packaging are steadily on the rise, the top application in Europe are disposable tableware, biowaste bags, carrier bags, rigid packaging and flexible packaging.(51) The examples shown below are all example of packaging that is fully compostable.
- Compostable Plastic For Disposable Packaging -
NatureFlex™ is a range of packaging films developed by Futamura. These transparent films are certified for “industrial compost” and “home compost” and have even in certain grades been proven to biodegrade in a waste-water environment. NatureFlex™ relies strongly on renewable feedstock (94%) and is derived out of wood-pulp from “managed plantations”. The green house gas emission is dramatically different from conventional petroleum based plastic, NatureFlex™ was awarded “CarbonZero” certification. (Note: This information is based on the information given in “plasticvscellulose-PDF” issued by Innovia, NatureFlex™ is since 2016 part of Futumura. This essay have not been able to get sufficient number on the carbon releases since the transition).
The NatureFlex™ “films” have can be designed to be moist barren, static free and “offer a super wide heat seal range” and can be applied from everything from candy wrappers to protecting fruits and vegetables.
To read more, visit: http://www.futamuracellulose.com/products/natureflex/