Keeping organics out of landfills is becoming more and more of a core sustainability goal for individuals and organizations of all kinds, and compostable foodservice packaging has long been recognized as a lynchpin in this effort. BPI member companies have made extensive contributions to the cause by developing products like hot cups, cold cups, cutlery, and take out packaging made from fibers and resins that perform in a foodservice context, yet also break down in commercial compost facilities alongside other organic material.
But the need for compostable alternatives extend well beyond the realm of cups and plates, and include things like flexible packaging for snacks, coffee, etc. - product categories that are staples of consumer demand across retail environments like campuses, stadiums, and grocery stores. These flexible packs often use less material than rigids, but are extremely difficult to recycle due to multiple layers of materials, and compostable options have been difficult to come by. Progress is being made, and we’d like to highlight some of that here.
Organic Waste Bags
The first product category where the use of compostable films was commercialized was bags for collecting food scraps. These composable bags are used by households and businesses alike to make collection clean and easy, while not contaiminating the compost with conventional plastic film. BPI members like BioBag, Heritage, EcoSafe, Al Pack, Natur Tec, GLAD, Polykar, and Inteplast have pioneered products for this category, and have improved their performance considerably over the years. It is now common to see compostable bags in widespread use in both commercial and residential waste generating environments.
It is no secret that there is an ongoing love affair with “convenient snacking”, not just in America but around the world, which is why snack bags have been a recent focus of product development for BPI member companies like Futamura, TC Ultraflex, BASF, Bi-Ax International, Danimer, NatureWorks and Pepsi. More than five years ago BASF worked with Safeco Field in Seattle to pilot a compostable peanut bag as a way to create a diversion option for the many, many bags of peanuts consumed at Seattle Mariners baseball games. This has continued to evolve, most recently with a pilot with the Kansas City Chiefs, partnering with local composter Missouri Organic Recycling.
PepsiCo famously brought to market the first compostable chip bag for their Sun Chip brand in 2006, and then relaunched the product in 2011 to better fit consumer preferences. Just this past week, they were recognized alongside Danimer Scientific for another product development success in the chip bag product category. The award was given by the Plastics Industry Association in association with their Bioplastics Week event. You can read more about the award here.
Futamura launched a commercial chip bag in Germany with my CHIPSBOX, which it reports has applications for in the US as well. And it has been partnering with convertors in America for snack bar wrappers, being tested for certification now.
Closer to home, several companies have found success with compostable zip bags for snacks on the go, like SC Johonson, BioBag, TIPA, and Repurpose.
Coffee and Tea Packaging
Barrier packaging for coffee and tea has been a hot topic, with successes from Genpak on wrappers, and TC Ultraflex on compostable “mother bags” designed to keep compostable coffee pods fresh. More recently TC Ultraflex commercialized a more complex compostable package for whole bean and ground coffee, launched with Oakland Coffee.
Compostable coffee pods have been taking over the shelves, led by Club Coffee, and Rogers Family, Oakland Coffee, and Canterbury Coffee.
Tea companies are following right behind, working with Futamura on a tea bag wrappers, as well as with Asahi, Yamanaka and Ahlstrom for tea bags and filters.
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