by Paul Ward
A new generation of manufacturers and scientists are working to tackle the global plastic waste crisis head on. Amid a recent flurry of headlines around plastic packaging waste in the UK, Antalis packaging has welcomed “the transition towards sustainable, compostable packaging”
There is widespread public concern at the revelations over the past year that 86% of collected plastic is not recycled and the claim that 8m tonnes of the stuff ends up in our oceans. Businesses are coming under mounting pressure to optimise their green packaging credentials and be smarter with the packaging they are using to help minimise waste.
In response, 11 leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies, including Unilever, Coca Cola and M&S, are working towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. According to Antalis, however, the transition towards truly sustainable compostable packaging is one which cannot happen overnight and will be a long, complex process.
John Garner, head of business development at Antalis Packaging, welcomed so many major brands making significant commitments towards optimising the sustainability of their packaging, particularly when it comes to embracing compostable options.
He did however warn: “For a start, there is a job to do in changing perceptions that all plastics are bad. Packaging made from organic matter such as seaweed and sugar cane, for example, actually produces polymers so it is, technically, classed as plastic despite the fact that it is completely natural and will break down naturally. Also, it’s not just about the material but how we use it – after all, one of the biggest issues we face today is the vast amount of unnecessary, excess packaging used which – if tackled – could make a huge difference to the amount going to landfill.
“At the same time, it’s important to note that some compostable packaging may not necessarily compost in a domestic setting, as most industrial processes used to make it include heat and pressure, thereby making it difficult to breakdown naturally. As such, it could just be put into normal waste for landfill.
“Also, there is a major job to be done in rendering such solutions economically viable. It is all well and good using packaging from 100% organic matter but if it costs twice as much as standard packaging, a cost increase which is going to be attached to the consumer, it is unlikely that they are going to buy it.”
Antalis Packaging is working with a major supermarket under the remit of providing an organic solution for its ready-to-eat-fruit and is working on creating a paper foam alternative constructed from fungi.
Looking further to the future, the business is also investigating grass land as an alternative raw material to wood, in a bid to ensure a future resource and negate carbon emissions. Garner added: “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the packaging industry as we continue to innovate and evolve in line with the dual challenge of rising e-commerce and environmental concerns. “Clearly though, while the choice for fully compostable packaging is an obvious one, the plan of delivery is inherently complex which requires further innovation, greater commercial buy-in from all industries and a change in mind-set. Yes it’s a long road ahead but by working together we can look to realise a brighter, more sustainable industry for all.”
Image from bakeryandsnacks.com