The reign of plastics in foodservice packaging has come to an end! Ushering in the new era in disposable utensils and food containers are bioplastics, made from biodegradable materials and derived partially or fully from renewable biological sources.
The Rise of Bioplastics in the Food-and-Beverages Industry
As the world has become increasingly cognizant of the toxic effect’s plastics have on humans, animals, and the environment – including the problem of non-biodegradable waste filling the land – the introduction of bioplastics and eco-friendly catering ware and drinkware have come to the rescue!
With health awareness and public concern for the environment growing, so has consumer demand for increased safety in food packaging, including tableware, serving ware, and cookware made from recyclable, sustainable materials. This trend follows on the heels of rising global interest in ‘green’ technologies and customers’ preferences for environmentally-conscious and eco-friendly eateries and catering services.
Material Sources of Bioplastics
As opposed to conventional plastics, which are derived from petroleum and fossil fuel, bioplastics are made from renewable sources, which makes their production a more environmentally friendly and sustainable activity. Among the many modern applications of bioplastics is their use in the manufacturing of disposable items such as food-and-beverage packaging, cutlery, crockery, bowls, straws, catering items, and more. Some of the most common bioplastic source materials include: sugar, starch, corn starch, cellulose, wood, vegetable fats & oils, food waste, soy, and proteins such as casein and wheat gluten. In addition to being renewable and having a lower carbon footprint than their petroleum-based counterparts, these raw materials share the advantage of being readily available, cheap, and abundant. This combination of factors is what makes bioplastics especially popular and favorable in today’s environmentally concerned world.
Plastic Versus Bioplastics
Plastic, the world’s third most-commonly used petroleum derivative, is manufactured from a non-renewable source and is non-biodegradable, meaning it can take millennia to decompose.
Alternatively, bioplastics offer distinct advantages, such as being compostable, reducing non-biodegradable waste, reducing greenhouse gases (carbon footprint), and requiring less energy to produce. Here are some further benefits of bioplastics over plastic:
- Many plastics used to manufacture food storage containers are made with the chemicals bBisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals have been found to ‘leak’ from the linings of cans and plastic packaging into food and drinks. Bioplastics contain no harmful additives.
- Bioplastics do not impact the flavor or scent of the food contained
- Bioplastics packaging ensures food safety and environmental safety
- Bioplastics offer improved performance, such as greater suitability for packaging moisture-containing foods, bakery products, and produce
- Improved physical properties of bioplastics over plastic include its glossy, appealing appearance, prolonged shelf-life for fresh produce, and suitability for rigid packaging applications
- Progressive marketing reports project that the Global Bioplastics Market will earn $96,627 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 20.9% during the period 2017-2025
Combining Fashion with Functionality in Eco-Friendly Party and Catering Ware
State of the industry reports indicate that among the hottest trends in the food service business are bio-plastic disposable catering items. Moreover, party and catering ware suppliers are creating full lines of compostable products which come in an array of fashionable colors and stylish designs.
What does this mean for you as a food industry professional? This means that you do not have to sacrifice fashion for function and that you can cater to your environmentally focused customers while boosting your business, enhancing your image, and supporting your bottom line.
Moreover, by ‘going green,’ you are placing your food service establishment firmly on the map of a successful future! The long-term forecast for bioplastic food-and-beverage packaging is massive growth to the tune of an estimated $28bn in value by 2020.
Policymakers Champion Bioplastics
Recyclable, biodegradable products are not just people-pleasers. Governments and policymakers around the world are championing bioplastics, as it is derived from renewable resources with significant promise for sustainable development. In fact, in some countries, ‘plastics are out and bioplastics are in’ has become the law, prohibiting the use of traditional plastic, taxing its usage, or otherwise limiting its negative effects.
Industry News: Starbucks to Phase Out Plastic Straws
In keeping with the times, the fight against plastic, and recent legislations, Starbucks announced its plan to phase out plastic straws in all of its locations by 2020. As consumers, businesses, cities, and countries worldwide are calling for eco-friendly alternatives, Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson had this to say:
“For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspirations of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways.”
If you work in the food and beverage industry, it’s time to cater to your customers and do your part for the environment by becoming a ‘green’ establishment and investing in bioplastic disposable goods. Some of the synonymous terms and products you will encounter in the field today include: biodegradable catering items, eco friendly party supplies, eco friendly catering supplies, premium disposable dinnerware, compostable utensils, napkins and straws, recyclable tableware and catering ware, bioplastic catering trays, biodegradable foodservice packaging, and bio-plastic bags.
Promote Your Products by Displaying the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) Logo
In the United States, scientific tests to prove that a product is biodegradable has led to the establishment of the Biodegradable Products Institute. Its renowned BPI Logo officially identifies products and their packaging materials as safe and certified compostable.
Whether you are a restaurateur, bakery owner, brewery owner, special events planner, party ware supplier, or caterer, you can build credibility and gain instant industry recognition and public approval by earning and displaying the BPI logo on your eco-friendly products and packaging.
Riding the Wave of the Future in Bioplastics
But the buck doesn’t stop here when it comes to the future of biodegradable foodservice supplies. With the global market and consumer demand rising for ‘green’ practices, so too have efforts increased to discover new-and-improved sources for bioplastics. One of the most recent innovations being researched is the manufacturing of seaweed as an alternative. While research is still underway for the technological development of seaweed-based bioplastics, initial findings bode well for the future, with benefits including seaweed’s high biomass, chemical independence, ability to grow in a wide range of natural environments, and cost-effectiveness. Bioplastics from seaweeds are also reported to be more durable and resistant to microwave radiation.
Popularity for bioplastic disposable packaging and products is on the rise. Now is the time for you, as an environmentally conscious food industry pro, to take advantage of the advantages of bioplastics! Add them to your growing repertoire of sustainable activities and watch your business soar in kind.