Climate change is devastating the planet and forcing us to look for more sustainable ways to eat, drink, and live. One hugely impactful way in which we can reduce our harmful impact on the environment is the better use and management of our packaging waste.

Biodegradable packaging has been lauded as a key solution to reducing and potentially even eliminating the waste and damage that comes from the millions of pounds of packaging that we produce every year.

In this article, we’ll define what biodegradable packaging is, highlight four of the latest trends in the industry, and discuss how each of these developments helps us in the fight against climate change.

What Is Biodegradable Packaging?

Biodegradable packaging is packaging made from materials that can be decomposed by micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. A material is deemed to be biodegradable if it doesn’t harm the environment during and after the decomposition process and if it completes the process within a year.

The market for biodegradable packaging continues to show tremendous growth. According to the market intelligence and advisory company Mordor Intelligence, the biodegradable packaging market was valued at $81.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $118.85 billion by 2026.

Trend #1: Plantable Seed Paper

It’s one thing for packaging to be biodegradable and not cause any harm to the environment, but it’s a class above if it also leads to new life.

A remarkable trend in the industry is plantable seed paper, which is a zero-waste plantable packaging that’s made of biodegradable materials and embedded with seeds.

Instead of discarding the waste after you’re done with it, you plant it in your yard and watch as something that once would have been trash now becomes a flower that breathes new life into the world.

Trend #2: Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Many of us shop online and have the products that we order shipped to our doorsteps. However, these products need to be protected while they’re transported from the warehouse to our front doors.

One of the most popular materials used to protect products in transit is Styrofoam packing peanuts. Unfortunately, it also happens to be amongst some of the least sustainable materials in the industry.

Thankfully, another encouraging trend in the area of biodegradable packaging materials is the use of biodegradable packing peanuts.

This environmentally friendly solution is entirely plant-based and made from naturally derived starches like wheat and cornstarch. Biodegradable packing peanuts dissolve in water, making it impossible for them to pollute our oceans or harm any wild animals that accidentally eat them.

Trend #3: Biodegradable Films for Food Packaging

Packaging for perishable goods like produce and other food products is a huge contributor to the problem of environmentally harmful packaging. Biodegradable films for food packaging can help mitigate this problem and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our oceans and landfills.

These films are primarily made from natural, biodegradable polymers derived from agricultural products like starch, proteins, cellulose, and plant oils.

According to MarketWatch, the Asia Pacific region currently has the largest market share for biodegradable food packaging because many of the leading food packaging manufacturers are located in the region.

Trend #4: Mushroom Packaging

Saving the most innovative idea for last, mushroom packaging is a wonderful example of how to use materials from nature to honor nature. Developed by the American biomaterials company Ecovative Design LLC, mushroom packaging is made from two simple products: hemp hurds and mycelium.

Mycelium is a particularly remarkable material because it naturally self-assembles into structures at room temperature and requires very little energy and water to grow.

Mushroom packaging is certified 100% biobased and fully decomposes within 45 days of being added to the compost. It has been used to protect products like candles, perfume, wine, and others.

The innovative material received a ringing endorsement when the Swedish furniture giant IKEA announced in 2020 that it will commit to using mushroom packaging in an effort to increase its sustainable business practices and lower its negative impact on the environment.

The Future Is Bright

Although we only highlighted four trends in the area of biodegradable packaging – plantable seed paper, biodegradable packing peanuts, biodegradable films for food packaging, and mushroom packaging – there are many more inspiring developments in this field that we weren’t able to highlight.

The future of biodegradable packaging is, therefore, bright. The only question is if enough companies around the world will discard their current methods and adopt these sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions.