Industry must look beyond 'non-green' pack notion - INCPEN

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Biodegradation, Recycling

Industry must look beyond 'non-green' pack notion - INCPEN
The food and beverage industry must move away from the notion of green and non-green packaging and accept that various materials, be they bio- or oil-based plastics, can have unique pack applications, says one research group.

Jane Bickerstaffe, director for the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), says that any new developments in packaging should be chosen for potential environmental benefits instead of a ‘green’ tag.

A variety of manufacturers and material suppliers have moved to play up their green commitments in recent years, with packaging one such area for innovation.

NatureWorks, a leading supplier of plant-derived bioresins, this week announced that it believes there has been significant shifts in the last two years in the number of global beverage groups turning to bottles made from renewable resources.

The group, which manufactures the Ingeo natural plastic resin, said there had been significant advancement to its pledge made back in 2006 to work with beverage groups on phased launches of bioresin bottles and understanding end-of-life strategies.

Ingeo is designed in an attempt to cut down on the carbon footprint of petroleum-based plastics by looking to plants and other renewable materials to source packaging, claims the group.

Post-consumer recycling

Group president, Marc Verbruggen, said that as the presence of bioresin bottles increases on the market, stakeholders such as brand owners and packaging suppliers must ensure that there are clear strategies for post-consumer recycling and reuse in place.

"NatureWorks looks for brand owners that share its commitment to decreased dependence on non-renewable resources, lower the environmental impact of packaging, work transparently with stakeholders, and plan for end-of-life recovery and reuse,"​ he stated.

The supplier said that in pursuing this focus, it had worked with a number of drinks makers and organisations over the last year in the US, New Zealand and Italy. Groups such as Primo Waters in North Carolina and Italian-based Fonti di Vinadio were using bioplastic packaging for some of their national mineral water brands over the last year, according to the company.

Aside from manufacturer interest, NatureWorks claimed that authorities had also extended some interest in using bioplastics for packaging.

“Key milestones during [the last two years] included a grant from the state of California for a bioresin recycling pilot project and a lifecycle analysis that determined the unequivocal environmental and performance benefits that will result [from] Ingeo-based bottles being turned back into bottles,”​ stated the company.

The company said that other findings by groups such as the UK-based Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) also showed that concerns over sorting bioplastics from other recycling materials may also be overstated.

“NIR (near-infrared) sorting systems can effectively remove PLA bioplastic and carton board from a mixed packaging stream,"​ stated the group.

Bio-bottle concerns

Bickerstaffe suggested that while research groups like INCPEN always welcomed developments for new packaging materials, there currently remains some concerns over the use of bioplastics in bottles.

In some markets, she said retailers and manufacturers were concerned about allowing bioplastics into some recycling schemes over fears that certain materials could cause disruption from having to be recycled separately.

Bickerstaffe also played up the significance of end-of-life factors in packaging, suggesting that certain bioplastics like biodegradable materials may be more suited to packs that are contaminated with food or drink products that can make them too labour intensive for recycling.

INCPEN suggested that compostable materials would be well suited for storing products contamianted with foods.

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