Alternatives to Plastic Packaging
There are several alternatives to plastic packaging available today. These alternatives are bioplastics, compostable plastics, glass, and paper. In this article, we will focus on Bioplastics. To learn more about these alternatives, check out my other articles. There are also many alternatives to plastic packaging available from natural resources. You can make your packaging from recycled materials and reuse your old ones! And, if you don’t like plastic, don’t worry. These alternatives are natural, too! You might find helpful ways to reduce your commercial waste production, resulting in less need for extra commercial waste collections.
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Alternatives to Plastic Packaging: Bioplastics
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about the benefits of bioplastics as alternatives to traditional plastics. Bioplastics are synthetic substitutes made from renewable biological resources and look, feel, and perform like conventional plastics. In addition, bioplastics can be recycled naturally since they are made from renewable sources like corn starches and vegetable oils. This makes them a viable alternative to many conventional plastic packaging options.
While the cost of bioplastics is higher than standard plastic, they are not comparable to traditional plastics. The global plastic industry is worth £1.2 trillion, and bioplastics comprise only nine per cent of that total. But bioplastics have other benefits, such as being safer for the environment. While bioplastics aren’t the answer to saving the planet, they’re a great alternative to plastic packaging. MarinaTex, based in the UK, has developed a bioplastic that combines fish scales and red algae to form a polymer that can replace conventional plastic.
This biopolymer is said to be stronger than conventional plastic. This bioplastic is being tested and marketed as a viable alternative to single-use plastics. It is also a green alternative to traditional plastics. The company also believes that composting will be the future of waste, reducing the complexity of multi-bin recycling systems and the cost of sorting.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging: Compostable plastics
The technical challenges of general disposal have hampered the transition to compostable plastics. In addition to limiting the functionality of compostable plastics, many have aesthetic limitations. Virgin plastics were considered a better solution for a long time because they had superior heat distortion, rigidity, and moisture sensitivity. Compostable plastics are made from polyhydroxyalkanoates, which combine high impact, soil and marine degradability, and anaerobic digestion.
The most significant impact compostable plastics can have is on the food service industry. They are suitable for coffee cups, sandwich packaging, and takeaway containers. Because they can be composted with food waste, these plastics are a great alternative to other packaging materials, often ending up in landfills. Moreover, they avoid contamination by recycling and returning food waste to the soil, a critical factor in releasing methane into the atmosphere.
Biodegradable plastics are natural materials like corn, sugarcane, and beets. They are used for food packaging and disposable flatware. They are also heat-sensitive, making them a good choice for cold products. In addition, biodegradable plastics are broken down naturally by microorganisms. However, they can also be disposed of using high temperatures, making them suitable for single-use packaging.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging: Glass
Glass is the oldest form of packaging, used for hundreds of years. Glass conveys a certain air of luxury, but it isn’t great for protecting products. It can be easily damaged. Glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but their carbon footprint is higher than that of plastic. And they are expensive to ship. Despite these drawbacks, glass is still an excellent choice for many consumer products. Cardboard is another popular alternative to plastic packaging. It’s easy to mass-produce, lightweight, and recyclable.
Plus, it’s biodegradable. But glass packaging is the ultimate eco-friendly choice. Glass is reusable indefinitely, unlike plastic, which can only be recycled three times. And although glass is much heavier than plastic, it can give your products a high-end appearance.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging: New Materials
- Wood – Wood is also a good choice for packaging since it can be customised for a brand. Unlike plastic, wood doesn’t degrade and is easily composted. It can even be recycled into liquid form if it’s completely decomposed. Glass, on the other hand, is a natural option made from sand. It’s chemical-free, recyclable, eco-friendly, and can fit many different products.
- Paper – Paper plastic packaging has become so prevalent that many industrialised nations have developed recycling programs. While the material is recyclable, too much plastic is in landfills and the ocean. This issue has spurred the development of alternative packaging materials. These new materials are environmentally friendly, reusable, and often look like plastic packaging. They are also fashionable and practical.
- Paperboard – It is stiff, UV resistant, and odour resistant. It can be die-cut to create special shapes for packaging pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and kit parts. Additionally, it is biodegradable and is non-toxic. This material is beneficial for food and household products. Further, it can be used for packaging products that require a moisture barrier. Lastly, it can be recycled.
- Seaweed straws – In a bid to end plastic waste and provide an environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastics, Loliware is developing edible seaweed straws. Loliware’s products are biodegradable and come in clear, black, and vibrant colours. Once used, they biodegrade to provide nutrients to marine life. These seaweed straws will eventually be composted. Abel Goremusandu used edible seaweed straws as an alternative to plastic straws.
- Plant-based Glues – Plant-based glues Glues made from plant-derived cellulose nanocrystals have the potential to offer environmental and performance benefits. They can protect fragile components and extend the life of valuable structural elements while saving resources and creating a more sustainable solution to adhesive problems. While it is still unclear whether plant-based glues can fully replace plastic, they are a viable alternative.
Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives to plastic packaging.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging: Recyclable materials
There are many alternatives to plastic packaging. Foil and tin can make better choices for packaging. Glass is better, but it also produces high carbon emissions. According to a UN study, around 50% of global emissions are caused by resource extraction. And as for recycling, packaging materials like glass and tin can be recycled in principle.
However, most food tins are lined with plastic, increasing their carbon footprint. Some shipping needs require sturdy material. In these cases, bioplastics are a good alternative. There are also 100 per cent recycled plastic alternatives available. Some shipping materials are also made from eco-friendly raw materials, including drums, spill trays, and spill control pallets. In addition to recycling plastic, organic raw materials and bioplastics are also used.
While many packaging materials are biodegradable, others are not. Cardboard and paper are also recyclable materials. Choose recycled ones made from post-consumer and industrial waste. FSC-certified materials come from sustainable forests, making them a better choice. These materials can be recycled five to seven times. Cornstarch, for example, is a highly-recyclable organic material made from corn. It is lightweight and easy to form. Further, it can also be eaten.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging – Learn more about UK business waste statistics here
Other useful links from our Commercial Waste Centre
The Benefits of Dry Mixed Recycling
Looking After Your Business Bins
Commercial Skip Hire – How to Find a Cheap Deal
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