Renewable source, high performance: why brands should switch to bio-based plastics

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Photo: Stora Enso

A great deal is required of today’s packaging materials. Brands are expected to be on top of things, choosing packaging with many factors – safety, recyclability, functionality, and product appeal – in mind. Furthermore, choosing the right packaging can be an important aspect of a brand’s marketing strategy. So, what’s in it for brands and the packaging industry if they decided to switch bio-based plastics like PEF?

Sustainability is one of the most cited factors in defence of changing to bioplastics. The good new is, it is not the only one. In this article, we take a look at four major advantages of switching PEF – and look at different aspects for packaging companies and brand owners.

1. A fossil-free alternative

As we all probably know by now, the use of plastic is associated with many problems, like the release of fossil carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at its end-of-life. In addition, one of the largest bulk plastics worldwide, traditional polyethylene terephthalate (PET), contains fossil-based terephthalic acid (PTA). Switching to its bio-based alternative polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF), which uses furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) instead of PTA, could bring about significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

2. Superior properties and behaviour

Not only are bioplastics the right choice for moving away from fossil resources, they also come with quality properties for packaging purposes. For example, PEF has high heat resistance – making it attractive for hot-fill purposes, as well as re-use through industrial washing and refill.

Furthermore, PEF has great gas barrier properties for oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour – enabling mono-material packaging and an extended shelf life of products. Using a single material instead of combinations can also save in costs and enable or simplify recycling.

– If you look at the cost of the total package and the features needed for a certain shelf life, shape, or recyclability, using a single material serving all those purposes provides great benefit, says Dirk den Ouden, VP Emerging Business, Division Biomaterials at Stora Enso.

To get the most out of this material, Stora Enso has been developing a breakthrough technology, FuraCore®, to produce FDCA in a cost-effective way at scale, laying the foundation for a plastic that makes sense.

3. Bioplastics fit the circular economy

PEF is made from bio-based crops that grow back – laying the foundation for sustainable and circular packaging. It is also fully recyclable – just as traditional PET packaging.

4. Novelty value and brand appeal – sustainable solutions help brands to differentiate

Differentiation is an important element in the packaging landscape. By associating unique characteristics with their products, brand owners create recognition and authority within their niches, leading to better sales as visibility and credibility increase.

– If we can use the basic material properties to offer something better than what the industry can today, I think there’s great opportunities for brand owners to engage, Den Ouden states.

As customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the products they buy, one means to stand out is to look at new sustainable options for package branding.

– Not only do people like to have products that are packaged in a nice, compelling way, but also to make a choice that feels good, Den Ouden concludes.

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