Plastic pollution is a huge problem. WGSN examines the issue and explores industry solutions that can make a real impact.
The problem with plastic
Considered the more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional plastics made from fossil fuels, bioplastics are produced entirely or in part from renewable biomass sources.
These bioplastics can still contribute to plastic pollution (particularly microplastics), land use change and pollution, so it is important for businesses to carefully consider their options and pick the most suitable applications for their products.
Innovation is key
Innovation is essential for bioplastics to have genuine impact. “Innovators are creating resilient, industrially compostable plastics for multiuse applications like footwear, as well as naturally biodegradable bioplastics for single-use applications, capable of quickly degrading in natural conditions like landfills or oceans. Investigate these emerging alternatives now to see which solution is right for you and your needs,” says Claire Lancaster, WGSN’s Head of Food & Drink.
Notpla (UK), made from seaweed, is natural and entirely biodegradable and is used for circular products such as coating, single-use packaging, paper, film, pipette or pearls. It naturally biodegrades in 4–6 weeks and does not produce any microplastics.
The world’s first fully compostable footwear has been developed using BioCir elastomer, a proprietary combination of natural, biodegradable materials that can be used in extrusion, injection moulding or as filament in 3D printing. BioCir Slides by Balena (Israel) have been designed with circularity in mind and need to be returned to the manufacturer at end of life to be shredded and processed in a composting facility.
NatureWorks (US) has formed a partnership with PHA manufacturer CJ Biomaterials (South Korea) to produce a bioplastic that can more easily biodegrade. The focus is to develop high-performance biopolymer solutions for compostable food packaging and serviceware in order to send more food waste to composting rather than generating methane in landfill.
How you can action this
Choose your bioplastic to match your intended application; be specific and transparent with consumers about how your product biodegrades.
WGSN subscribers can read the full Sustainability Bulletin: February 2023 for a round-up of the key sustainability happenings this month.