The one aspect of food production that probably faces more criticism than others for its environmental impact is packaging.
Not only does excessive packaging contribute significantly to our overflowing landfill, but many are made using unsustainable materials and production methods.
Whilst many ‘greener’ packaging alternatives are available, they are often criticised for being more expensive, less sturdy and less durable than their unsustainable counterparts.
Many food producers and manufacturers find it hard to justify the extra cost and perceived lower quality of green packaging, particularly in this tough economy when many are surviving on razor thin margins as it is.
Now a Holland-based company, Yparex, is claiming to be the first supplier to provide the packaging industry with a commercially available bio-based adhesive polymer that is both sustainably sourced and fully recyclable.
One of the main challengers for packaging manuyfacturers is trying to find a solution that bonds all the different kinds of packaging together, regardless of whether the application is in fresh food or industrial supplies.
The resins used to create flexible-barrier packaging – the kind used to prevent oxygen reaching meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables and preserve the odours and flavours inside – has traditionally been one of the harder materials to bond together.
These resins were traditionally bonded together using petroleum-based polymers, though this practice has come under criticism due to the damaging environmental effects of the substance, the unsustainable materials used in production and growing concerns that these substances can negatively affect health.
This led Yparex to try and find an alternative solution that was both sustainable and also as effective as petroleum-based options.
Yparex’s General Manager, Wouter van den Berg stated that there was “a lot of disagreement about how best to make the packaging industry more sustainable”, commenting:
“Some argue for glass, since it’s inert and recyclable. Others say paper is better, as it’s made of material that grows back. Still others say lightweight plastics are greenest because they save significant transportation costs and energy, while increasing safety (since they’re unbreakable), and extending shelf life (reducing waste).
Produced from 95% plant-based materials, yet offering the same performance specifications as previous polymers, this alternative allows manufacturers to not only further embrace sustainability, but protect themselves from future price spikes related to the cost of oil and natural gas.