Concern for environmental sustainability is growing as more consumers choose organic, vegetarian, and vegan products, often at least partly based on environmental concerns. At the same time, consumers want convenient, single-serve options like biodegradable food packaging to go along with the on-the-go Millennial lifestyle. In biodegradable food packaging, things are a lot easier. Microorganisms like bacteria and fungi break down these materials, and they do it quite quickly too.
The global biodegradable packaging market is growing at a moderate pace and is expected to continue to do so. Governments, industries, and consumers alike are increasingly vocal about sustainability concerns and the need to reduce waste. Adopting environmentally friendly packaging, including biodegradable food packaging, is one way that brands are addressing these concerns.
The motto of biodegradable food packaging is to reduce packaging waste. Therefore substantial research is going on to create edible films which will eliminate packaging waste. Industries use the following polymers for making biodegradable packaging.
- Polysaccharides extracted from biomass
- Polysaccharides produced by microorganisms
- Polymers produced by chemical synthesis of renewable bio-derived monomers (e.g., PLA – polylactic acid)
Researchers are keen on developing edible and biodegradable packaging. The biodegradable packaging may or may not contain biopolymers. Also, they may or may not be edible. However, more sustainable are the biopolymers obtained from renewable resources.
These biopolymers make biodegradable food packaging bags, microwavable food containers, etc. Please note, biodegradable plastics are made from fossil-based resources, and they take a longer time to decompose than their biopolymer counterparts.
Is Biodegradable Food Packaging 100% Natural?
When we talk about biodegradable packaging for the food industry, it is not only the waste we worry about. It’s also whether the packaging is food grade, shelf sustainable, and incorporates almost all product isolation properties like plastic. Let’s discuss the edible and non-edible food packaging separately and their making process.
Edible Biodegradable Food Packaging
Polysaccharides are common macromolecules suitable for making edible food packaging. Even if the consumer discards the packaging, it is biodegradable. The popular polysaccharides are cellulose, chitin, and Pullulan. The good thing about these polymers is- they possess good mechanical strength. These are also capable of isolating the product from oxygen and carbon dioxide. But, these polymers are hydrophilic i.e., they fail to provide a barrier against moisture.
For example, Pullulan is a polysaccharide from microorganisms and available for commercial use. Hayashibara Corporation and Shandong Jinmei Biotechnology Co. Ltd. are the leading producers of Pullulan. Pullulan is non-toxic, odorless, and colorless, which makes it suitable for making edible films. Also, they are homogeneous, transparent, printable, heat sealable, flexible, and provides an excellent barrier to oxygen. But, these are hydrophilic, costly, and don’t match the mechanical properties of plastics.
Non-edible Biodegradable Packaging
Polylactic acid and cellulose make non-edible biodegradable food packaging. Still, safety is on the stake because many times, manufacturers treat cellulose with toxic solutions to recast into sulphuric acid. This forms a hydrophobic layer and improves mechanical strength.
Hence, not all food packaging made from biopolymers are biodegradable. The process of making packaging accounts more for whether it is sustainable.
We require more than 230 million tonnes of packaging every year. And the industries demand functional and cost-effective packaging. Though it is difficult, but not impossible to strike a balance between environment-friendly and cost-effective packaging, therefore, before jumping into commercialization, thorough research on the side-effects of biodegradable food packaging can make it more sustainable in the long run.
Biodegradable plastic additive provided by Oxygreen plastics is the most cost affordable solution to enhance the biodegradation of your plastic product. Where does the environment stand on your priority list? Get in touch with us and let’s together make a greener planet.
Get in touch with us and let’s together make a greener planet.