An Australian manufacturer of environmentally friendly packaging says the main challenge is to ensure their products do not end up in landfill.
BioPak CEO Gary Smith points out that many containers that are labelled recyclable are not always able to be recycled, and are often just down cycled into products of lower value, before ultimately ending up in landfill or the environment.
“We need to design packaging based on circular economy principles instead of the current linear process,” he said. “Most plastics are currently made from non-renewable fossil resources which is not sustainable. Our products are all made from rapidly renewable plant-based resources or agricultural waste streams and are designed to be composted along with other organic material at the end of their useful life, returning nutrients back into the soil. We take product stewardship seriously and have been proactive in promoting and developing composting as a sustainable end of life solution for food service packaging. Access to commercial compost infrastructure in Australia is increasing rapidly. The BioPak compost collection program which recovers food waste along with our compostable packaging is accessible in a growing number of locations across the country, resulting in the diversion of a significant volume of organic waste from landfill.
The company been in the food services sector, and has a broad array of sugar cane and bioplastic compostable products, including but not limited to: produce trays, coffee cups, paper plates, napkins, takeaway food containers, cutlery and paper straws.
As a result of negative customer feedback, he says major retailers have begun to replace plastic packaging in store with more sustainable alternatives such as sugar cane pulp trays. BioPak has recently developed a range of sugar cane pulp trays specifically designed to replace the plastic and foam trays used to package fruit and vegetables
"We've introduced a standard range of pulp trays and punnets in response to demand from retailers and produce packers," Mr Smith said.
The BioPak CEO adds that the containers are a 'drop-in replacement' for current plastic ad foam trays and can be used to package a wide range of fresh produce, with a range of sizes commonly used in the produce packing industry.
"We have also developed a pulp punnet with drainage holes punched in the base specifically for packaging cherry tomatoes,” he said. “The trays are heat sealed with a lid film directly onto the pulp. We are also able to produce custom pulp trays and recently developed a three-pack avocado tray for a local retailer."
BioPak has seen a rapid increase in demand for pulp solutions, and has just engaged with a produce packer using more than 1 million trays every month.
“We are constantly developing new ranges and we expect to have approximately 20 different fresh produce trays within the next 6 months,” Mr Smith added. “We have been inundated with inquiries from both growers and packers in the agriculture industry, looking to eliminate plastic packaging. We have the infrastructure and capacity to meet the current demand and as the industry leader we continue to invest in the latest technologies that allow us to develop innovative solutions. We are one of the first companies in the world able to leverage digital printing technology to print full colour graphs onto our pulp products.”
He notes that not all pulp packaging is created equal; BioPak’s products are made from sustainably sourced pulp in a fully automated production facility certified to ISO environmental and food safety standards.
The Sydney-based company only supplies to the Australian and New Zealand markets, but with the recently acquisition by a European entity, the brand is now set to take its products to the global market.
"In the next six months we will be introducing our entire product range into Europe and the UK," Mr Smith said. "Beginning in 2019 the BioPak brand and packaging solutions will be launched in 18 countries. It's not an easy process, we have a huge amount of work to do, but we are on the way."