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Company making moves into bioplastic packaging discusses its products, market opportunities and common misconceptions of bio-based materials by customers, brand owners and consumers.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

December 20, 2017

4 Min Read
Green Dot Bioplastics eyes packaging opportunities

Green Dot Bioplastics (Cottonwood Falls, KS) recently published an informative blog written by the company’s communications manager, Kevin Ireland, entitled What growth in the bioplastics industry means for investors and the economy. Some highlights:

  • Grand View Research (San Francisco) reported that bioplastics had less than a 2% share of the plastics industry in 2015, but forecasting a 5% market share of the total plastics market by 2020 and a 40% share by 2030, making bioplastics a $324 billion-dollar enterprise in just over a decade (shown in chart above).

  • These predictions are based on consumer demand, corporate vision, practicality of design and costs.

  • Bioplastics are the key component to bringing the plastics industry out of a wasteful linear economy and into the circular economy. Their increased use will yield positive results, not only in environmental and economic instances, but also functional impacts.

  • The fact that bioplastics aren’t searching for new markets and instead are replacing traditional plastics in the markets they already serve means there isn’t much blocking their path.

Ireland responded to PlasticsToday’s questions related to our channel’s audience of plastics and packaging professionals.

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In a nutshell, what’s the company’s history?

Ireland: Green Dot Bioplastics was started in 2011 to commercialize the market’s first compostable elastomeric bioplastic, Terratek Flex. In 2013 the company acquired the bioplastic division of MGP Ingredients (MGPI), and now offers a full-line of bio-based and biodegradable bioplastics and biocomposites.

How much of your market is in packaging or packaging related products?

Ireland: Currently packaging only makes up a small percent of our current market; however, we see this increasing in the coming years. We’re currently engaged in material trials with several packaging companies involving really interesting projects, but NDAs prevent us from sharing more information at this time.

What kind of activity are you seeing?

Ireland: We believe that increased consumer demand for more sustainable packaging options along with the proliferation of municipal government regulations and incentives have created tremendous growth opportunities for both bio-based and biodegradable packaging in the U.S.

Which of your four product lines is currently drawing the most interest for packaging?

Ireland: We are currently trialing several formulations for compostable films that we believe will offer superior strength and puncture resistance along with biodegradability in either an industrial or home-composting environment.

What packaging applications are appropriate for your elastomer products?

Ireland: Our Terratek Flex compostable elastomers can be used to modify more rigid biodegradable plastics like polylactic acid (PLA) and thermoplastic starch (TPS) for better heat/cold tolerance as well as making them less brittle.

Which packaging markets are most promising for biodegradable and compostable plastics?

Ireland: Food packaging and food service applications offer the best opportunities for compostable plastics. As an increasing number of athletic stadiums, airports, theme parks, campuses, and municipal venues adopt zero waste policies, demand will grow for biodegradable food packaging and service ware that can be disposed and composted along with organic waste.

What’s a common misconception about bioplastics you hear from customers? And from brand owners?

Ireland: Plastics processors often assume that the materials will be difficult to process. Like any new material temperatures and cycle-times will need to be dialed in to optimize production, but generally this is easily accomplished.

Whether it’s made with renewable, reclaimed, recycled or biodegradable feedstocks, brand owners need to understand their own sustainability goals and educate their consumers so that they understand why and how the product or packaging is more sustainable.

What misconceptions do consumers have?

Ireland: We find the three most common consumer misconceptions around bioplastics are:

1.  The fear that it will start to biodegrade on the shelf;

2. Bioplastics won’t perform as well as traditional plastics; and

3. Biodegradable plastics can solve the problem of plastic pollution.

The first two may have been true for the first generation of bioplastics, but now we can formulate bio-based and/or biodegradable plastics that meet or exceed the physical properties of traditional petroleum-based plastics.

The third misconception is more difficult. Biodegradable plastics are best used for applications where they will be disposed and composted along with organic waste. These plastics should not be viewed as a panacea for the plastic pollution that inundates our landscapes, water ways and oceans.

Final thoughts?

Ireland: Cost will always be a driver for packaging materials. Bioplastics will be successful in applications where it provides a functional advantage over traditional plastics. It can’t just be “greener,” it has to perform better.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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