Going Back to Earth: What are Bio Based Materials?
As we strive to achieve global sustainability goals through advanced technology, innovative materials, and improved recycling systems, recent packaging materials have us looking decidedly backward towards the earth herself for innovation. Bio based materials, solutions derived from natural plant-based materials, are becoming a more prevalent solution in consumer packaging. Can bio based materials answer the call to a sprint towards a more circular economy?
In this article, we’ll dive into a short history of bio based materials, the advantages of using them, and which bio-based materials are being used by innovative consumer brands today.
Interested in using Bio Based Packaging for your new product? Schedule a call with an Impacked packaging expert or submit an RFP to learn more about our catalog of hundreds of bio-based solutions.
A Short History of Bio Based Materials
Biomaterials are a fascinating and rapidly evolving segment of packaging solution. Bio based packaging refers to the materials' origin or source, highlighting the initial stages of a packaging solution's entire life cycle.
While still relatively uncommon at scale, there is a rich history of uses dating back thousands of years. Mesoamerican cultures (Olmec, Maya, Aztecs) utilized natural latex and rubber to create waterproof clothes, balls, and containers over 3000 years ago!
In 1862, Alexander Parkes from the UK invented Parkesine, the first man-made plastic derived from cellulose. Parkesine was categorized as a biobased plastic or ‘bioplastic.’ German chemists then invented Galalith in 1897, a biodegradable plastic made from casein found in milk which continues to be utilized today.
Biomaterials’ innovation continued to flourish in the 20th century with milestones such as Maurice Lemoigne successfully producing the first bioplastic from bacteria (polyhydroxybutyrate, PHB) in France, the use of wood and hemp cellophane, and the invention of corn starch-based and soy-bean based bioplastics. Even today, we continue to see more innovative examples of plant based products such as bamboo, seaweed, and mycelium solutions.
Types of Bio Based Materials
Biobased materials fall into two categories: those based on natural fibers and those that utilize biological substances rather than petroleum. A few of our favorites include:
Wood & Paper Packaging
Paper or wood-based bio based packaging solutions have been in existence for hundreds of years. However, recent research and implementations in this area have resulted in the development of more sustainably forested paper-based packaging.
Inika, a name that means "little earth" in Sanskrit, is an Australian beauty brand that utilizes Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper as its secondary packaging along with fully recyclable aluminum caps and tubes made of biodegradable sugarcane.
Bamboo has been a versatile crop for centuries, originally churning out goods like baskets and tools. Today, bamboo packaging has seen a revitalized use in cosmetics and beauty due to its lightness and durability. With a 2 to 3-year maturity turnaround and 30% fewer emissions used in its harvest compared with virgin wood, it is also deemed one of the world's most renewable materials.
Zao Organics used bamboo as the backbone of its primary packaging, from the outers of lip balms and mascaras to eyeliner pencils. Moreover, they’ve built a refillable model that allows the bamboo outers to stay in circulation longer.
Sugarcane has proven to be more than just a sweetener for our favorite beverages. The plant's raw material from the plant’s fibrous residue after juicing. Putting the crop’s waste products to work as luxury beauty packaging has shown great promise in allowing it to become a carbon negative crop.
Lageen Tubes, a Bulgarian packaging supplier, specializes in sugarcane tubes which are used across a wide variety of industries.
Not quite bio-based but worth a mention for its mineral potential, LIMEX is the material that will shake things up in reducing carbon emissions in packaging by up to 50% compared to its traditional plastic counterpart.
LIMEX is a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics like ABS and PP resin. It comprises 50% or more inorganic material, such as calcium carbonate, and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. LIMEX can be easily manufactured using existing plastic molding machinery and recycled similarly to products made from a single material.
The Advantages of Using Bio Based Materials in Packaging
Bio based materials have a number of advantages over traditional packaging materials beyond meeting sustainability goals for companies and consumers.
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Bio based packaging solutions are known for their ability to generate fewer and cleaner emissions during manufacturing. This positive impact is further multiplied when these solutions are integrated into circular economy models.
The biodegradability of Bio Based materials depends greatly on the material's characteristics. While some iterations are curbside recyclable, others require advanced management systems that will help the packing break down under controlled and ideal conditions.
Most crucially, bio based packaging reduces waste. Even if these biomaterials miss their exit to proper recycling channels, they will break down faster and more efficiently in the landfill than a virgin plastic item would.
The Future of Bio Based Materials
Can a shift towards plant-based materials help us transition to ‘better for the planet’ packaging? For a bioeconomy to thrive, it's crucial to have easily accessible solutions. Impacked Packaging has a catalog of hundreds of bio-based packaging options from top rated suppliers. Schedule a call with a packaging expert or submit an RFP to learn more about our bio-based solutions.