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Environmental Goods & Services (EGS) News

Biodegradable Packaging - 7 November 2007

Environmental concerns have become a priority for consumers, businesses and governments both globally and at home. Like organic food and sustainable forms of energy, the demand for a biodegradable alternative to plastics is becoming hard to ignore. In line with trends across Europe, the UK, North America, and Asia, biodegradable food packaging is slowly entering the market in South Africa – and rapidly entering the main stream worldwide.

Progress in bio-technology has led to the development of biodegradable alternatives which look and feel exactly like conventional packaging. The environmental impact between the two, however, is enormous. Conventional packaging like polystyrene products are petroleum-based which is a limited resource; and takes up to hundreds of years to degrade. The production of these plastics is highly toxic, and incineration releases toxic fumes.

The alternatives on the other hand are made from natural and renewable plant resources (corn, sugar cane, straw or wood); have a significantly lower environmental impact during manufacture (30-50% less fossil fuel); and biodegrade into water, CO2 and compost in 45 days when composted in controlled conditions (at 58C°). For example, Bagasse or sugar cane pulp is a by-product of the sugar industry and is a perfect replacement to polystyrene cups, burger boxes and other non-biodegradable take away containers.

It has been predicted that that the biodegradable packaging market will grow by 20% per year (www.foodproductiondaily.com). The figures speak for themselves, in Europe alone, consumption in 2003 doubled from 2001, with a consumption of 40, 000 tonnes per annum.

In South Africa, Green Home is a leading supplier of biodegradable food container products. All their products are made from 100% natural and renewable resources, and are 100% biodegradable and compostable.