What is Biodegradable Packaging? Process, Materials, and Benefits
One thing businesses know about their customers is that their demand changes constantly. Today, most people look into eco-friendly alternatives when making a purchase. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, 66% of consumers think about sustainability before buying an item.
Due to this growing shift, many companies across all industries are working to provide greener options for their customers, and packaging is one way to do it. There are multiple ways you can go green in your product packaging efforts. You can start by selecting biodegradable packaging. But before you make the shift, what is biodegradable packaging?
If you are curious about this sustainable solution for your packaging needs, keep reading the guide below!
What is Biodegradable Packaging?
Biodegradable packaging comprises materials that can be broken down by microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. The most widely utilized types of biodegradable packaging are cardboard or paper and bio-based polymers.
The term “biodegradable” is a material’s ability to decompose and revert to its natural state. Materials used in packing must degrade entirely and transform into natural elements within a short period following disposal, usually a year or less.
Compostable packaging is similar to biodegradable packaging as the materials used safely return to the earth. The stark difference between the two is that compostable materials replenish the soil with nutrients. They also need certain composting conditions, whereas biodegradable materials are made to decompose in landfills.
Types of Biodegradable Packaging Materials
Biodegradable packaging materials are now more popular among brands and consumers. The market for biodegradable plastic packaging was assessed at $4.65 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.04% by 2025, reaching a market value of up to $12.06 million.
Because of the surge in demand, more companies are switching to sustainable packaging and using biodegradable packaging materials. Here are some of the top materials used today:
Derived from the corn or maize plant, cornstarch possesses plastic-like characteristics that make it a good plastic substitute in various applications, including bottles and other molded shapes and loose-film packaging.
Companies favor this biodegradable packaging since the raw material is affordable, easy to produce, and sustainable. Cornstarch-based packaging will decompose into carbon dioxide and water if disposed of properly over several months.
To produce mushroom packing, agricultural waste is cleaned, powdered, and joined together by a matrix of mushroom roots, also called mycelium. Desired shapes can be created using these basic materials.
After drying, it is used as eco-friendly food packaging—among other forms of packaging—and in only a few days, fungus fibers tie the trash together to form a solid shape that dries and prevents further growth.
Agar, a substance in many kinds of seaweeds and algae, is used to make seaweed packaging. It is frozen to form a rigid, film-like state that is then squeezed to create a soft cushioning agent.
Because seaweed is a great sustainable raw material, seaweed packaging is a very appealing and environmentally beneficial packaging choice. It biodegrades in the soil in four to six weeks and is also an effective way to lessen ocean acidity.
Cellulose film packaging is biodegradable packaging made from wood or cotton. It minimizes trash generation and offers superior printability and durability. During a projected period, the availability of different inventive packaging solutions will likely positively impact the demand for cellulose film packaging.
On average, uncoated cellulose film decomposes in 28 to 60 days when buried or composted, while coated cellulose decomposition lasts between 80 and 120 days.
Paper and cardboard are 100% biodegradable and pose a popular plastic alternative when it comes to packaging. These flexible materials are useful for packaging, storing, and transporting items. Paper is a sustainable resource since it biodegrades in two to six weeks and may be recycled up to six times before the fibers become too short.
Process of Making Biodegradable Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging can be made easily and affordably. Whatever type of business person you are, the main phases in creating eco-friendly packaging are listed below to assist you in grasping the green way.
- Choose the packaging material
Pick packaging materials that reflect your brand choices. You can select from recycled plastic, paper, cloth, or glass, as many recyclable materials are available on the market.
- Collect raw materials
The extraction process of industrial raw materials includes a variety of phases and procedures, such as breaking, sifting, or grinding. You can collect raw materials from drop-off locations or recycling units. After gathering, you might transport the materials to a manufacturing facility, where they would be sorted, cleaned, and prepared for production.
For this step, specialized machines are employed to extract minerals and raw materials and process, transport, and store the goods. There are also methods for the material’s eventual treatment. Accelerated solvent extraction (ASE) is an example of how packaging samples are tested.
- Manufacture the packaging
Sustainable manufacturing practices, such as switching from fossil fuel power to renewable energy during production, are equally important for producing eco-friendly packaging. In contrast to fossil fuels, renewable energy is sourced naturally by the sun, wind, biomass, or rain.
You can lower your business’s carbon footprint by using environmentally friendly energy sources for packaging production. As part of the manufacturing process, reducing packaging waste output and conserving water are crucial.
- Label the packaging
Inks can be detrimental to the environment since they include several chemicals. Several green manufacturers have switched from conventional ink solvents to more environmentally friendly versions of low volatile organic compounds (VOC). Other VOC-free eco-friendly inks containing only water, acetone, or ethanol are great options.
The great thing about biodegradable packaging is that, after its use, the packaging goes back to the earth. Then, the cycle for packaging production starts again.
Benefits of Switching to Biodegradable Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging is made under manufacturing processes that help reduce energy use and lessen negative environmental impacts. There are several biodegradable packaging benefits for both your brand and the environment, such as:
- It reduces production costs
Using fewer resources, you can make packaging thinner and tougher while achieving its purpose. You can also recycle packaging to reduce the expense of purchasing brand new materials while diverting waste from landfills.
If you invest in biodegradable packaging, you can significantly save costs by acquiring lesser supplies, reusing your inventory, and buying cost-effective recycled materials. You will eventually see lower packaging costs, allowing you to devote your funds to other parts of your operations freely.
Reusing packaging is environmentally friendly and an excellent green marketing advantage for your brand. It can reduce shipping costs, minimize erroneous costs, and eliminate waste. Business owners prioritizing eco-friendly choices can earn more goodwill and local business.
- It is non-toxic and allergen-free
Some customers worry about the composition of the packaging and how it may affect their overall health and well-being. Your clients may live a healthy lifestyle by purchasing your items in packaging free of allergens and toxins.
Biodegradable choices are scarce, but most alternatives are compatible with similar machinery and conventional packaging materials. Therefore, they are inexpensive and simple to implement.
The generation of global plastic waste from 2000 to 2019 has more than doubled to 353 million tonnes. An unfavorable factor is that standard packaging materials are generated from petrochemical resources such as crude oil.
Plastic offers specific health dangers to humans during every stage of its existence, from refining, extraction, and use to distribution and disposal, making it quite detrimental to human health and the environment.
- It boosts your brand’s image
Sustainable packaging solutions enhance the perception of your brand. Your choice demonstrates your concern for social responsibility and the environment.
Customers are more likely to buy from you and suggest you to family and friends when they feel you are committed to protecting the environment. Being transparent about your product lifecycle management and utilizing sustainable materials in your packaging should be your top priorities.
- It reduces your carbon footprint
Converting your products with eco-friendly packaging helps you uphold your environmental responsibilities as a business. You lessen your carbon footprints, which negatively impact nature. By employing recyclable or renewable materials or utilizing less packaging for your products, you can reduce your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
As consumers continually take action on these environmental issues, with 55% reporting that they are extremely concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging, you can expect an increase in interest for items with biodegradable packaging due to your like-minded decision to help the environment.
- It increases sales
Customers consider sustainability when making a purchase. We see an increasing percentage of the populace direct their purchasing power toward businesses they connect with morally. Thus, eco-friendly packaging is of growing importance to every brand’s identity.
By involving your audience and fostering trust, implementing eco-friendly activities can strengthen your brand. Your name in the industry becomes more relevant, promotes loyalty, and ultimately generates more sales over time by aligning with the values of your target market.
Latest Trends in Biodegradable Packaging
The demand for smart and sustainable packaging is more pressing than ever as e-commerce continues to rise tremendously. The global smart packaging market is estimated to grow from $22,257.6 million in 2020 to $38,662.0 million by 2030.
Both businesses and consumers are actively looking for solutions to lessen their environmental impact and switch to greener packaging strategies. Here are some sustainable packaging ideas that are anticipated to catch on:
- Active packaging
Active packaging is one of the most innovative food preservation solutions today. Its functionality depends on the polymer’s inherent qualities or the unique additives used in the packaging systems.
Chitosan has inherent antibacterial and antifungal properties related to modifications in the cellular permeability of microorganisms. Instead of applying directly to foods, active agents can be incorporated into the packaging material or inside certain package-related elements to meet the desired objective of lowering concentrations, thereby limiting undesirable flavors and odors to foods.
- Biodegradable inks
Small prints may be extremely harmful. These conventional petroleum-based inks affect the environment by containing VOCs. Alternative biodegradable inks provide superior color vibrancy and visual appeal while being simpler to de-ink during the recycling process. With the market for eco-friendly ink having an expected 5.8% CAGR from 2023 to 2032, alternatives are rising.
Biodegradable inks typically cost less and generate vibrant hues because they use natural vegetable oils, such as soy, rapeseed, and sunseed. It is a non-toxic solution that does not release polluting odors, and printing uses less ink.
- Edible packaging
Edible packaging is made of biodegradable, natural, and plant-based materials, which makes it easy and safe to ingest. This packaging eliminates waste management because it uses zero-waste materials and even enhances delicious gastronomic items.
- Plantable packaging
Plantable packaging is ideal for lightweight and compact items such as jewelry and cosmetics. They can also be utilized as fillers or product wraps. When customers are finished using the packaging, they can plant the seeds embedded in the components that make up the package.
The fiber box that stores the product’s seeds is manufactured with zero waste. After use, consumers can plant it to find it producing foliage eventually.
Make the Green Switch with Biodegradable Packaging
As consumers become more aware of the repercussions of plastic use, more biodegradable packaging solutions are gaining a following in the market today. Through constant efforts to emphasize the need for environmental change, you can slowly build a cleaner and more sustainable global marketing scene—and packaging makes for a great place to start the green switch.
Speak with specialists from Meyers and bring your vision to life! Here at Meyers, we use high-quality, sustainable printing services to help you achieve a cleaner, greener, and better packaging for your business. Contact us today to learn more!