Last year Decowraps was the first to launch the new renewably sourced material ‘Bio-LDPE’ into our market. A gamble? Yes. Will it take us into the future of sustainable packaging? Definitely!
Currently the most widely used material in the floral packaging industry is plastic made from fossil fuels. To make it even worse, insufficient recycling processes often make us burn these petrol-based plastics, making their CO2-footprint even worse.
The reasons why people choose fossil plastics in the floral industry are simple: to offer protection, transparency and because it can be printed in different designs. In search for a sustainable alternative, we needed a material that met these requirements, combined with a renewable feedstock and recyclability within the current infrastructure.
Our initial search led us to PLA. Being compostable and renewably sourced, it sounded perfect. However, people don’t realize ‘compostable’ refers to industrial composting; with carefully monitored temperatures and humidity over a fixed timeframe. This means that home composting PLA simply won’t work. Even industrial composting is problematic, as countries often do not have the necessary waste management infrastructure, or they have one that moves at much faster pace than the 12 weeks it takes for PLA to decompose.
Also, composting is a huge waste of valuable materials, whereas re-using the materials would drastically improve the CO2 footprint. Realizing this, we needed to find something that was both renewably sourced and recyclable within existing infrastructures. A blinking lightbulb and three epiphanies later, we found the answer: Bio-LDPE.
Bio-LDPE is made from a renewable source: sugarcane. Being converted into ethanol, the end result is technically no different from conventional plastics. Meaning it can easily be recycled in the existing recycling streams: 1-0 for Bio-LDPE.
Function & Design have been elemental for packaging and the reason why PP-plastics have been doing so well. When shifting to circular packaging, we surely don’t want to sacrifice on these traits. But no worries, Bio-LDPE can be printed just as good as PP-plastics. That’s 2-0 for Bio-LDPE.
Finally, using edible sugarcane to create plastic is surely food for thought. Making plastic from food seems unethical when millions of people are still hungry every day. Which is odd to say the least, given that we’re currently producing food for about 11 billion people, with lots and lots of that being thrown away every day. So let’s discuss limiting food waste first, then. Also, it would require only 10% of Brazil’s agricultural lands to replace the entire global PE-plastics demand with sugarcane-based Bio-PE. Now weigh that against a whopping 26% of Brazil’s agricultural lands that have been depleted by the meat industry. Idle land that’s just sitting there. Acknowledging sugar cane grows well on depleted soils like these, and after a simple calculation, we can easily conclude that there’s no competition for food whatsoever. A deciding 3-0 victory.