biopolymers in sustainable packaging

The importance of biopolymers in sustainable packaging

Why is sustainable packaging such a booming trend? The main reason lies in a shift in public consensus towards environmental issues. Concerns about the climate crisis are at a record high[1]. “All natural,” “organic,” “fair trade”: an increasing number of products include claims of sustainability, and customers are taking notice. Millennials[2]  and the Generation Z[3] are the most outspoken supporters of this new paradigm, as they now require the adoption of eco-friendly practices by corporations[4]. Research by Trivium Packaging developed in partnership with Boston Consulting Group found that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging[5]

Sustainable packaging: arriving at a definition

As with any new trend, there is no agreed upon definition of sustainable packaging. Customers look for products that are sustainable at an environmental and societal level. In essence, the market is moving towards a more conscious capitalism[6], favouring companies that are actively invested in the betterment of society and prioritise making an impact on the world around them[7]. In practical terms, sustainability refers to three Rs: recyclability, renewability, responsibility. All in all, sustainable packaging is any solution that it’s recyclable, incorporates material from renewable sources, and is responsible both source-wise and in terms of CO2 emissions. 

Also, a point to consider is the importance of biodegradable materials and biopolymer packaging materials. The latter, in particular, are increasingly more common, so much so that bio-based polymers for packaging are coming to the fore as an appealing alternative to fossil fuels - a trend which is also contributing to the growing popularity of aseptic carton packaging. In this context, IPI’s use of biopolymers in its packaging solutions is further proof of IPI’s spirit of continuous innovation as well as its long-standing commitment towards the environment. Not only is IPI's bio-based packaging has a low carbon footprint, it also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through a distinctive characteristic of bioplastic made from biomass, i.e. biogenic carbon.

At IPI, we are at the forefront in sustainable packaging. Indeed, we integrate plastic made from fossil fuels with plant-based biopolymers in our aseptic carton packaging. IPI aseptic packaging is, as of today, a solution with a remarkably low environmental impact. Our renewable packaging is made with FSC®-certified paperboard from responsibly managed forests. Furthermore, IPI is certified as an ASI Performance Standard. What’s more, IPI aseptic packaging follows a sustainability roadmap towards a 100% renewable packaging material. 

Last but not least, as part of our effort to fight deforestation we have invested in tree planting in Petén, the northernmost region of Guatemala. To make things right, all fruit trees that we are planting will be donated to the farming families of Petén. By doing so, we give back to the rural communities and support their livelihood in a material way.

The biopolymer packaging market - an overview

Bio-based polymers for packaging are polymers that occur in nature and are extracted from renewable sources, such as plants. In recent years, the biopolymer packaging market has grown substantially. Bio-based polymers are increasingly being used in packaging applications on account of growing demand from food and beverage, personal care, and pharmaceutical industries. 

The greatest driver of the biopolymer packaging market is, undoubtedly, the rising concern in public consensus over fossil fuel-based plastic, with scientific discovery and R&D at a close second. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since a future beyond conventional plastic represents a trillion dollar opportunity for startups and packaging manufacturers[8]. Because of this, biopolymer is a high-innovation field with cutthroat competition. 
Among the many sectors affected by the expansion of bio-based polymers, the food and beverage industry is supposed to capture most of the growth. In this regard, aseptic carton packaging is increasingly gaining traction. 

Geography-wise, the APAC region is a magnet for biopolymer manufacturers. According to European Bioplastics, around 56% of the global bioplastics production comes from the Asia-Pacific area[9]. The situation is not likely to change, since the region offers better access to feedstock and a favourable political framework.

Biopolymer materials in IPI’s carton bricks

IPI is among the few aseptic carton packaging manufacturers whose cartons are almost entirely made of renewable materials. In fact, up to 90% of all our carton brick comes from renewable sources. In particular, IPI’s biopolymer packaging materials derived from sugar cane integrate plastic polymers of fossil origin used in the multilayered structure of the packaging material and caps. 

 A world leader in producing plastic from sugar cane is Brazil, where our sugar cane comes from. Brazil is also home to the Amazon Rainforest, an environmental patrimony that we preserve by sourcing sugar cane-based plastic from plantations located far away from the Amazon Rainforest itself. 

Most notably, our plant-based polymers guarantee the very same performance of plastic made from fossil fuels, both as regards product safety and functionality. This innovative solution provides the highest degree of protection from moisture and external agents, ensuring freshness and the product’s organoleptic properties. Because of this, it allows for long shelf life at room temperature, further reducing the carbon footprint.

In conclusion, our approach to environmental sustainability is manifold, with the three Rs at the cornerstone of our vision: Renewability, Responsibility, Recycling. Ultimately, we believe it’s our duty to take action and protect our planet. We do our part, by putting plenty of effort to improve the environmental performances of our sustainable packaging solutions.

[1] Source:The Guardian
[3] Source:Bloomberg
[4] Source:Nielsen
[5] Source:IMFA
[6] Source:Forbes
[7] Source:Forbes
[8] Source:Packaging Europe
[9] Source:Mordor Intelligence
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