Implementation / Management: What is important to know when bioplastics are to be introduced as a new packaging material?

1. Change from traditional films to bioplastics – what has to be regarded?

2. What are the most important arguments to implement bioplastics as a new packaging?

3. How can bioplastics be integrated in an existing CSR-process (Corporate Social Responsibility)?

4. Does the packer have to pay fees to the Green Dot when he uses bioplastics as a packaging material?

5. Do bioplastics need a different storage to traditional films?

6. How do light, warmth and humidity influence the storage capability of bioplastics?

7. Which market data of bioplastics do we have?

8. Which factors do influence the development? 

9. Can biofilms avoid condensation in the packaging?

 

1. Change from traditional films to bioplastics – what has to be regarded?

When implementing bioplastics two facts should be regarded in particular: The price and the required properties.
Due to less production quantities and more expensive raw materials bioplastics will remain more expensive than traditional films in the foreseeable future.
The required properties of bioplastics are not as flexibly combinable as it is possible with PE and PP films (polyethylene and polypropylene). In fact, high-transparent or very flexible and soft films are possible (as for fruit and vegetable bags) – a combination of these properties has not been gained by the research, yet. Transparent films are still pretty stiff whereas flexible soft films are quite matt.

2. What are the most important arguments to implement bioplastics as a new packaging?

There are many reasons for companies to use bioplastics as a packaging for their products: A positive image by the use of this packaging innovation, the reduced dependency on fossil fuels as well as the eco-friendly reduction of the global warming are only three aspects; furthermore a high renown among the consumers, an effective integration in existing CSR-processes (Corporate Social Responsibility) and last but not least also economic reasons: For the last two years traditional plastics became 80% dearer – an increase which is not expected with the bioplastics. Quite the reverse! Here we can proceed from the assumption that the material is going to get cheaper. Besides, compostable bioplastics will be exempt from the fees for the Green Dot until 2012.
For packers of fresh food there are even more logistic advantages: Expired goods can be disposed together with the packaging via a composting system. The packaging needn’t be manually separated anymore.

3. How can bioplastics be integrated in an existing CSR-process (Corporate Social Responsibility)?

A CSR-process is usually built up on three columns: I. social performance, II. ecological compatibility, III. economical sustainability. Compostable bioplastics derived from renewable raw materials can easily be integrated in the columns II and III. The ecological compatibility is self-explanatory because of the core properties of the films. The use of bioplastics is mainly distinguished in the sector of the economical sustainability by the increase of the market value. This of course ensures the status of the company and the involved jobs which considers the first column.

4. Does the packer have to pay fees to the Green Dot when he uses bioplastics as a packaging material?

No if we talk about compostable bioplastics. They will be exempt from the Green Dot until 2012.

5. Do bioplastics need a different storage to traditional films?

During the transport the pallets should be covered by stretch or shrink hoods to protect the bioplastics. It is recommended to remove this protection in stock to eliminate possible humidity. Afterwards the bioplastics should be protected against light, warmth and humidity as we already know it with traditional films.

6. How do light, warmth and humidity influence the storage capability of bioplastics?

Basically all external influences should be minimised during the storage time to guarantee an optimal quality of the bioplastics. Here, the bioplastics are not different to traditional films. Excessive light such as permanent sunbeams can lead to brittleness of the film and fading of the colours.
A permanent thermal radiation close to the bioplastics has the same effect as light. Furthermore, there is the danger of softening the film which makes it unusable.
Humidity itself does not harm the bioplastics but the structure of a film roll together with humidity deliver an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms which love the areas between the layers of the film on the roll. Mould might be the consequence.

7. Which market data of bioplastics do we have?

Bioplastics are fairly new products the market data of which are difficult to get. The latest data are from the organisation European Bioplastics which outlines the overall market of bioplastics as follows:

  • about 75,000 to 100,000 tons of bioplastics were processed in Europe in 2007
  • this is equivalent to about 0.2 per cent of the total European plastic market
  • the annual increment of bioplastics is estimated at about 20 per cent
  • in  2011 the annual production quantity of bioplastics will exceed the limit of one million tons for the first time.

8. Which factors do influence the development?

Currently the strained situation on the raw material side influences the market trend : manufacturers of bioplastics cannot meet the demand. Changes of this situation are not seen for the coming years.

Additionally, we have the political and social discussion about the use of agricultural resources for industrial applications as a basis for bioplastics and biofuel. Although bioplastics –in contrast to biofuel- only takes a small part (in Germany the production of biofuel is ten times as high as bioplastics) the discussion jams the market activities.

The imbalanced market situation of supply and demand can only be levelled out by increasing the production capacities. The  willingness is recognisable: currently, all renowned raw material suppliers increase their capacities. A relaxation, however, will not be achieved before 2011.

9. Can biofilms avoid condensation in the packaging?

Biofilms is not a solution to avoid condensation. In order to prevent the visually recognisable wetness so called antifog-additives are used in the area of PE-films. These make the water film which arises during condensation evenly spread on the surface of the film. So the translucence is optimised. The buildup of condensation in general however is not affected by this.