Bioplastic Awards: Compostable Salad Bags and Candy Wrappers

Bioplastic Awards: Compostable Salad Bags and Candy Wrappers

The third Bioplastics Awards were announced this week, recognizing compostable salad bags, candy packaging and replacements for foam packaging.

The awards show just the range of ways companies are approaching and trying to utilize bioplastics. While some of the awardees have actual, in-use products, others are working on technologies they hope will be game-changers that push the bioplastics industry into new realms.

The award for Best Innovation in Bioplastics went to New Zealand's Biopolymer Network, a research partnership that has developed a simple and cost-efficient way to make low density expanded polylactic acid (PLA) foams that can replace petrochemical-based expanded polystyrene, which is used to make packaging peanuts and other rigid foam packaging materials. The Network has been testing the technology, which works with commercially available PLA, a bioplastic typically derived from corn starch or sugarcane.

A home-compostable salad bag developed by Amcor earned the award for Best Bioplastic Application in Packaging. U.K. retailer Sainsbury's wanted a bag for its So Organic wild rocket salad that could be composted at home, could perform well in wet environments and was not derived from materials that could be genetically modified. Amcor and packaging company Flextrus used Innovia's Natureflex cellulose film and a proprietary compostable sealing layer to make the bags, which perform similar to conventional plastic salad bags.

Best Bioplastics Application in Non Packaging went to Brazilian footwear industry supplier Formax Quimiplan for using renewable thermoplastic polyurethane to make shoe components that are key to reinforcing and maintaining the shape of shoes.

Nestlé Confectionery in the U.K. won the Bioplastics Marketing Initiative award for its campaign to educate customers about how to recycle and dispose of the packaging for Quality Street candy. Nestlé printed "Recycling Cycle" storyboards on the bottom of every candy tin showing how to handle each type of packaging, including the home-compostable candy wrappers.

Germany-based Gehr Plastics was named Best Bioplastics Processor. The company makes semi-finished plastic products and created a line called EcoGehr, which uses various bioplastics like PLA and castor-oil derived materials. The company has provided products to cosmetics, skiing and construction companies for evaluation.

The award for Personal Contribution to Bioplastics went to Oliver Peoples, the co-founder and chief science officer of Iowa-based Metabolix, producer of the Mirel brand bioplastic. In 1988, Peoples joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he conducted research that created the basic tools and methods for genetically engineering bacteria and plants to increase yields of bioplastic. He co-founded Metabolix in 1992, and since then the company has formed a joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland to produce and market Mirel bioplastics, with the company's commercial-scale production plant set to go live next year.