With the world becoming increasingly conscious about the need for environmental sustainability, eco-friendly packaging has become a critical factor for many businesses. In order to reduce the negative impact on our environment, it is essential that companies have access to innovative compostable packaging solutions. By implementing these sustainable options, eco-friendly brands can stay competitive in their industries while also contributing to a healthier planet.
Understanding Compostable Packaging
Compostable packaging refers to materials and products that will break down into natural elements, usually within 12 weeks in an industrial composting facility or within 24 weeks in home composting conditions. Made from renewable resources like plant-based materials or recycled content, these solutions provide an excellent alternative to traditional plastics which can take hundreds of years or more to decompose in landfills.
Using eco-friendly compostable packaging not only helps keep trash out of landfills but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from waste decomposition processes. Moreover, by decomposing into nutrient-rich soil amendments, such packaging contributes positively to soil fertility as well.
The Importance of Certifications
Not all compostable packaging materials are created equal. To provide assurance that a product will truly break down as intended, various organizations offer certifications based on strict criteria and regulations. A few widely recognized certifications include:
- BPI Certification: The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certification ensures that products meet ASTM standards for biodegrading materials under different environments.
- TUV Austrias OK Compost: With options like OK Compost Home and OK Compost Industrial, TÜV Austria will certify products according to EU standards EN 13432 and EN 14995.
- Din Certco: Based in Germany, Din Certco evaluates and certifies packaging materials based on international standards including EN 13432.
Having these certifications on compostable packaging materials will help consumers make more informed decisions regarding the eco-friendliness of a product and could ultimately drive brand loyalty towards businesses that prioritize sustainability.
Innovative Compostable Packaging Solutions
Several companies are leading innovation in compostable packaging. Here is an overview of some inventive solutions making a difference today:
1. Bio-based Plastics
Polylactic acid (PLA) is considered one of the most popular bio-based plastics used for sustainable packaging. Derived from renewable resources such as cornstarch or sugarcane, PLA has applications in various industries from food service to cosmetics and personal care. Some notable brands utilizing PLA include Coca-Cola with their PlantBottle™, which contains up to 30% plant material, or Unilevers use of bio-sourced food packaging materials like biodegradable films.
2. Mushroom-Based Materials
Mushroom-based packaging, developed by Ecovative Design, uses mycelium (the root structure of mushrooms) to create completely biodegradable alternatives to polystyrene foam. Known as MycoComposite™, the mushroom-based material provides excellent cushioning and insulation properties while being entirely renewable. It can also decompose in just 30 days when placed in a backyard compost pile.
3. Edible Packaging
An intriguing solution to our waste problem is the development of edible packaging materials. Companies like Notpla are experimenting with seaweed-based membranes that can be used to encase liquids or solids while offering a biodegradable—and edible—alternative to single-use plastics. These membranes can be flavored or left tasteless, expanding possibilities even in the food industry.
4. Home Compostable Films
TIPA has developed home-compostable films that can replace conventional plastic films currently used for food packaging such as snack bars, produce bags, and coffee pouches. With similar properties to regular plastics, these films are designed to fully decompose within 24 weeks under home composting conditions, offering a planet-friendly option.
Support from Governments and Industries
To switch to innovative compostable packaging materials at scale, businesses need support in terms of research and development funding as well as regulations that encourage sustainable practices. Several governments worldwide have already started promoting eco-friendly packaging solutions by banning single-use plastic items or taxing non-reusable materials. For instance, the European Union passed a directive aiming to reduce plastic waste by focusing on ten single-use plastic products commonly found washed along shorelines.
Meanwhile, some industry leaders have taken their own initiative by forming groups such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundations New Plastics Economy initiative. These organizations work collectively towards identifying challenges within sustainable packaging solutions and driving their implementation across industries.
Innovative compostable packaging solutions offer an unprecedented opportunity for eco-friendly brands to make a significant impact on environmental sustainability while maintaining operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. By adopting certified biodegradable and compostable options like bio-based plastics, mushroom-based materials, edible packaging, or home compostable films, these brands can successfully fulfill market needs with reduced ecological footprints. As more businesses recognize the importance of providing eco-conscious alternatives alongside supportive governmental policies and industry initiatives, we see a promising future for brands engaged with innovative compostable packaging solutions.