Trends And Drivers In The European Biomaterials Market

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Futamura is dedicated to using renewable and responsibly managed resources to produce plastic-free packaging that offers outstanding product protection and shelf-life. By Andy Sweetman, sales and marketing manager, Futamura EMEA.

In 2018, the European biomaterials market has seen a surge of interest in its biobased and compostable products because of a growing demand for so called ‘plastic-free’ packaging. This is partly due to the BBC environmental documentary series, Blue Planet II, which aired in the UK, Nordic regions, Europe and Asia from 29th October 2017, and in the United States in January 2018. The programmes, narrated by the highly respected Sir David Attenborough, have brought the issue of marine litter to the attention of millions of viewers with emotive images of dead or seriously injured wildlife, such as a dead baby whale and an albatross discovered with a huge amount of plastic in its stomach. These vivid visuals and candid reports have resulted in a public out-cry for action against plastic waste, thus causing a ripple effect that has influenced manufacturers, retailers and even the policies of the British government (amongst others).

There are a number of environmental campaign groups working towards a reduction in plastic waste—from innovative ways to replace single-use plastic packaging to lobbying for infrastructure improvements.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is one such organisation, established in 2010, with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy that looks “beyond the current ‘take, make and dispose’ extractive industrial model—the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital” (Source: the Ellen MacArthur Foundation). Since its creation, the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, establishing the circular economy on the agenda of decision makers across business, government and academia.

A Plastic Planet is an environmental campaign group lobbying for plastic-free aisles in supermarkets to give conscientious consumers plastic-free options in an easy and fuss-free way. In March this year, they supported supermarket Ekoplaza to open their first ‘plastic-free aisle’ in the Netherlands. Packaging technologists may dispute the term ‘plastic-free’—which has clearly been coined with the consumer in mind. However, Ekoplaza states that “products must be made of innovative, certified compostable, biomaterials” to qualify for their plastic-free aisle, demonstrating that there is technical expertise behind the consumer-focused branding. This pioneering specialist aisle has sparked the interest of global brand owners, retailers and manufacturers, causing a great deal of constructive debate throughout the industry.

The BBIA (Biobased and Biodegradable Industries Association) recently announced their support for the concept behind the plastic-free aisle suggesting that it “holds immense untapped potential. A designated plastic-free aisle, with a clear set of criteria that everyone can adhere to and at equal cost impact, would help ease consumer confusion and feed the growing demand for next generation packaging. It also creates a hugely valuable commercial and developmental opportunity for innovative bio-packaging solutions, without creating any downsides in terms of additional waste.”

Other groups such as Greenpeace are also heavily invested in the fight against conventional plastic waste.

As well as an emerging trend for plastic-free aisles, there is also a pan-European drive for improved on-pack labelling that identifies the correct end of life solution for used packaging. Meanwhile, adjustments to waste management systems are essential to ensure both mechanical and organic recycling schemes are easy-to-use and available for all communities.

Together with our suppliers, customers and industry bodies, Futamura is working towards a true circular economy. We are dedicated to using renewable and responsibly managed resources to produce plastic-free packaging that offers outstanding product protection and shelf-life. This is then destined for organic recycling that allows compostable packaging materials to be collected with garden and food waste. This compost can, in turn, be used to improve soil conditions for growing future food and renewable resources, therefore completing the circle.


The following case studies are examples of our most recent projects: 


Futamura’s NatureFlex Films On The Plastic-Free Aisle With Bio4Pack And De Halm

Futamura has partnered with sustainable packaging manufacturer, Bio4Pack, to create a compostable pack for Dutch organic cereal producer, De Halm, using NatureFlex and Tipa film. The product is featured on the Ekoplaza plastic-free aisle, along with a number of other solutions from Bio4Pack using NatureFlex films.

Ekoplaza states that to qualify for their plastic-free aisle, flexible packaging must be made from “innovative compostable biomaterials”—thus, NatureFlex cellulose films are the natural choice. They are made from renewable and responsibly sourced wood pulp and are independently certified industrial compostable, according to the European standard EN13432 and TÜV Austria’s OK Compost Home standard for home composting. NatureFlex offers outstanding barrier properties to moisture, gases and mineral oils. Moreover, the De Halm pack is laminated to Tipa film for excellent sealability.

This innovation in biomaterials means that the Dutch consumer is not only able to buy a product in plastic-free packaging with a superb shelf-life, but can easily dispose of the finished pack in their green waste bin, which is accepted by the Dutch waste infrastructure.

Futamura sales and marketing manager, EMEA, Andy Sweetman, said: “We are delighted that NatureFlex is featuring so prominently on the Ekoplaza plastic-free aisle. It is an easy substitute for some conventional plastics, especially for dry produce such as the De Halm cereal bag. We are looking forward to the plastic-free aisle concept developing in other countries.”

Patrick Gerritsen, director at Bio4Pack, said; “We have been producing sustainable packaging from bio materials for a number of years. It is fantastic to see these types of solutions being more broadly recognised. We have used NatureFlex films for many of our packs as they are fully compostable and easily converted, which means we can use them on their own, or for example, in the De Halm pack, as part of a more complex bio-laminate structure.”


Plastic-Free And Compostable Crisp Pack Using NatureFlex And PLA

Futamura has collaborated with packaging manufacturer, Bio4Pack, to create a plastic-free compostable crisp pack for German organic crisps producer, myCHIPSBOX.

The sustainable pack consists of NatureFlex film made from renewable and responsibly sourced wood pulp, which is then printed and laminated with a layer of metalised PLA. The bio-based, compostable and plastic-free pack is an environmentally responsible packaging choice with outstanding barrier properties.

Futamura sales and marketing manager, Andy Sweetman, said: “This is a great application and an excellent example of how conventional plastics can be replaced by bio materials for a more sustainable packaging choice. NatureFlex is an ideal laminate film because it is an excellent barrier to moisture, gases and mineral oils.”

This is a further milestone in Futamura’s mission to provide a holistic premium organic offering in the sustainable packaging market


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