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Has compostable packaging gone mainstream?

If you are an internet lover, you may have noticed on the internet - there are more and more popular science and discussion articles about composting and home composting, and it seems that disposing of your household waste by composting is gradually becoming a trend, while The word compostable packaging has also been mentioned more and more in these compostable topics, and it seems that compostable packaging is gaining popularity.

So, is compostable packaging already mainstream?

Before answering this question, we need to know what is compostable packaging and how it is different from traditional packaging, and then combine some data to see if the market and demand for this packaging has been growing, and then we can go back to to this topic.

Of course, compostable packaging includes plastic film and plastic bags, but it is not only plastic, cardboard, wood, and metal. These materials are also common in the packaging industry. for sure, cardboard, wood, and metal packaging materials are all easy to recycle and use, they can be said to be natural degradable materials, so we only discuss the plastics here.

Plastic-based packaging is generally referred to as flexible packaging in the packaging industry, and its advantages include small size, lightweight construction, and the ability to be made from multiple layers of materials, which can enhance factors such as shelf life, durability, printability, Barrier, sealing and strength properties. Its flexibility is a key performance factor in many industries. Flexible packaging is often used to package products during storage, transportation, and to protect products (including food) during their shelf life.

Most waste treatment centers do not accept flexible plastic packaging for recycling because of its complex material structure, food contamination and light weight, which cannot be successfully recycled. Of the very few types of flexible packaging that are recyclable, very little (about 4%) is actually recycled.

Therefore, flexible packaging has caused most of the pollution in the packaging industry, and governments of various countries are constantly making demands that enterprises in the packaging industry should be responsible for these pollutions.

In order to solve this problem, the industry has invested a lot of money and a long research and development time, in the development of flexible packaging. The final result is degradable plastics, and the most high-end product is compostable flexible packaging.

Compostable flexible packaging, or compostable plastic as you can call it, is a microbial degradable plastic that meets ASTM 6400 (Specification for Compostable Plastics), ASTM D6868 (Biodegradable Plastics for Surface Coatings of Paper or Other Compostable Media) specification) or EN 13432 (compostable packaging) standard, which should biodegrade within 180 days in an industrial composting environment. An industrial composting environment refers to a specified temperature of about 60°C and the presence of microorganisms. By this definition, compostable plastic leaves no debris in the residue that lasts longer than about 12 weeks, contains no heavy metals or toxic substances, and supports plant life.

To ensure that these materials are qualified compostable materials, the U.S. government joined industry, academia, organized the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), which aims to promote the use and recycling of biodegradable polymer materials. BPI is open to certifying any materials and products that are fully biodegradable in an accredited composting facility. And it certifies products independently by well-known laboratories to ensure that they meet the requirements of ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868.

BPI has a database of certified compostable products, so anyone can easily check the authenticity of a product advertised as compostable. To make compostable products easy to identify, BPI has also created a compostable label. The label is designed to be recognizable and can be placed on products, packaging materials, and sales literature.

Relative to the consumer side, such a strict definition is helpful to the packaging industry, it can reverse the public's past impression of the packaging industry, in the consumer scene, such as fresh produce, grains, coffee beans, hot snacks bags, or even zipper bags for everyday storage. If you see the BPI compostable label, you can rest assured that this packaging is BPI certified and 100% compostable. If the packaging is certified as "compostable" by BPI, it is guaranteed to disintegrate in up to 180 days under compostable conditions. By providing a certified compostable alternative to non-recyclable traditional packaging materials, a new plastic packaging recycling solution has been proposed that could revolutionize the flexible packaging industry, which is crucial for the plastic circular economy transitioning to a more sustainable A sustainable future is critical.

According to data from Grandview Research, the packaging industry is currently the largest application field of biodegradable plastics in the world, accounting for 58%; followed by agriculture, accounting for 13%; and consumer goods, accounting for 11% .

In addition, the Market Statsville Group released a report "Bioplastics, Compostable Plastic Packaging Market Size Report", which is expected to grow from 3.2 billion in 2021 to 2030. USD grows to $16 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 19.5% from 2022 to 2030.

With the increasing crackdown on traditional disposable plastic products by countries, the market size of bio-based plastics, biodegradable plastics and compostable plastics has further expanded. Pushing up further, this is a major positive for bio-based plastics. In addition, with the frequent occurrence of extreme weather around the world this year, countries will pay more attention to environmental protection, which is good news for environmentally friendly bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

Therefore, we cannot be sure that compostable packaging has become the mainstream at present, but with the development and progress of the times, compostable packaging will inevitably become the mainstream.

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