Biodegradable Flexible Packaging Solutions
What is a biodegradable polymer?
Biopolymers have been around for quite some time. Here at Flex-Pack Engineering, we have been working with biopolymers for at least 20 years. During that time, we have seen biodegradable polymers continue to evolve to offer more and more options for the flexible packaging industry. Biodegradable polymers are a special class of polymer that breaks down after its intended purpose by bacterial decomposition process and results in natural byproducts.
Probably the most common biodegradable polymer is PLA which is a polylactic acid polymer. PLA is different from thermoplastic polymers since it is derived from renewable resources such as corn or sugar cane. In contrast, most plastics are derived from petroleum resources. Bioplastics is a term that is used to describe plastics that are derived from biopolymers such as PLA.
Challenges in Using Biodegradable Polymers in Flexible Packaging Products
There are many challenges when considering using biodegradable polymers for a flexible packaging product. Currently, there is limited production with biopolymers as compared to standard polymers, so the economies of scale are not present which makes producing biodegradable packaging more expensive. A typical polyethylene manufacturing facility can produce hundreds of millions of pounds of material annually while availability of biopolymers is limited to millions of pounds. Additionally, the availability of biodegradable polymers which are fully renewable and sustainable and can also function and contain our food products and industrial products is challenging. The materials must be strong, clear, shiny, allow for printing, and can be run through standard equipment and have fitness for use characteristics equal to standard plastic options, as well as be price competitive. It is a serious challenge.
Future Considerations and Expectations with Biodegradable Packaging
As technology for biodegradable polymers continues to evolve we expect more and more opportunities to integrate bioplastics into our everyday workflow for flexible packaging products. Currently, there is a spectrum of expectations regarding biopolymers. On the one side is the expectation that biopolymers have to match existing materials in physical property performance, shelf life, and cost expectations. On the other side of the spectrum is the reality of where biopolymer technology and performance are at today. As the technology for biodegradable polymers continues to improve we feel the expectations will shift from the outer edges of the spectrum and converge more in the middle allowing for more integration of improving bioplastics into flexible packaging products.
How Flex-Pack Engineering Can Help Make Sense of Biodegradable Polymers
At Flex-Pack Engineering we help customers make sense of biodegradable polymers from an engineering perspective. We help sort out and characterize biodegradable polymers along with all of the other polymers available in the marketplace. We can analyze standard film products vs. biofilm products and make informed recommendations on the applicability of one product vs. another in fitness for use and chain of use criteria.
Furthermore, our team can provide the flexible packaging testing and consulting services related to proof of concept on compounding, film making, printing, and laminating. We have the knowledge and expertise with biodegradable products and are actively working on projects that are utilizing biodegradable plastics with our customers to produce biodegradable packaging. We are an experienced and talented partner for companies who want to develop biodegradable packaging products.
When you are ready to have a conversation about if biodegradable packaging is an option for your packaging products, call Flex-Pack at 888-300-1482 or fill out our request information form.