Biodegradable Pkg Material. What does that mean to us?

So the article on the front page today made me start to think about this question. I am starting to see more and more push for PLA and other Bio-plastics. The claims are that they will decompose and break down in a compatible environment. They can be created using renewable resources like corn and are much better for our planet.

We all have heard these claims and I am sure that these claims have been brought into other areas of design as well. My question for this discussion is how much of this is actually feasible? Also how is this going to change the way we design packaging in the future? There are a few issue I see with this, I will include two but leave the floor open for others to contribute.

The first is the claim of being biodegradable. While it is true that these packages will break down in a compost environment, It is not true that these compost streams are widely available and they will not breakdown in a landfill. Because of this they are then put in a plastic recycling stream and have to be sorted out at the plant. So instead of saving the environment it is causing more waste.

The second is that most of the products that these materials are being suggested for use are flexible. Meaning that they are bags, shrink wraps, etc… These products currently do not get recycled because of the fact that they are made of so many different types of material. I can see this being an opportunity for this habit to change but what is it that the manufacturing companies are going to do to make that work. I would think the first would be to educate the consumer that flexible packaging can be recycled just like rigid plastic.

Just thought I would put this topic up and thought it would be a great discussion. Let me know what your thoughts.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve tried to introduce this stuff as well and have definite concerns about the applications. I have however started using this stuff instead of polybags for inside shippers. Often we wrap our displays in poly before shipping so they dont get scratched. It think its a definite plus that the resource is at least renewable, as for the decomposition I guess we just cross our fingers and hope what needs to happen happens.

I could see poly bags being a good place for this with maybe instructions printed on them to describe how to dispose of them. This could be done as most of these go to a retail or business environment and the proper channels could be set up.

Exactly. I think in the consumer channels the concept gets a bit convoluted and won’t work as it is supposed to. Plus, with large companies that ship globally to stores in the thousands this is a huge step forward.

With soy based inks of course!

Absolutely :unamused:

There are some points many of these articles neglect to cover. Most plastics photodegrade and do not biodegradable. I’ve seen some studies where the plastics do break down but they still retain the same mass and volume as when they first went into the landfill.

Then there is the other point that people just do not recycle as much as they should. Most third world countries that generate most of the plastic waste don’t even have recycling capabilities available.