Biodegradable packaging, a real alternative

Plastic materials derived from oil remain in the environment for hundreds of years, entering the food chain and negatively affecting fauna and flora. Biodegradable packaging, made from plant material, has emerged as a solution, as it decomposes naturally, without affecting the environment. The global innovation, Hiperbaric Bulk, a technology that allows processing large volumes of bulk liquids, contributes to be part of the solution in the field of high pressures, since it allows the use of any type of packaging for HPP beverages.

Plastic contamination caused by today’s lifestyle, such as the use of single-use plastic objects, has become one of the most worrying problems to be solved on the planet. In general, these materials made from fossil fuels remain in the environment for hundreds of years, often ending up in the sea. Millions of animals are affected by this type of pollution, sometimes causing the death of some of them when they become entangled or by hunger.

In addition, exposure to environmental elements (such as the sun or waves) breaks these products down into microplastics that easily expand through the air, water and food chain. Therefore, it is essential to find alternatives to these fossil fuel-based plastic materials.

Biodegradable packaging as part of the solution

High Pressure Processing (HPP) is an in-pack technology that requires certain types of packaging, usually plastics. Biodegradable packaging is an alternative to the materials mentioned above, as they decompose naturally. The action of natural microorganisms breaks them down into environmentally friendly structures. This type of packaging is normally composed of polylactic acid (PLA), made from plant materials instead of petroleum.

A good example is the French juice company Yumi. This company is passionate about the health of both its customers and the environment. For this reason, they use 100% biodegradable bottles for their HPP juices.

Press London, one of our clients in the UK, has launched its own initiative towards a more sustainable future. Its bottles are made from 75% recycled plastic (rPET) and 25% bioplastic made from cane sugar. It’s not the final solution, nor is it a biodegradable solution, but it is a significant step.

There are packaging companies that offer biodegradable packaging suitable for HPP. Lyspackaging is a French company that offers standard and customized bottle packaging solutions and is the creator of the “Vegan Bottle”, a 100% vegetable-based bottle made from biodegradable and compostable materials.

In the U.S. we can find as an example the company Expressed Juice, which uses the bottles of Captiva Containers with Eco-Clear additive. This additive is specially designed to be digested by microorganisms, reducing the biodegradation of PET to only 5 – 7 years. In addition, these bottles remain reusable and recyclable.

Potential trends in ecological packaging

Carbohydrates and proteins derived from plants are also proposed as possible solutions. However, researchers and industry experts still need to improve the mechanical properties and manufacturing costs of these materials to reach those offered by plastic polymers.

Starch containers are a popular alternative, although some challenges to overcome are water solubility and possible changes in mechanical properties due to molecular restructuring when exposed to water (degradation). Among some of the possible applications for HPP, Kim et al (2018) stated that a film with a more compact structure based on wheat grain processed by high pressure (6000 bar/87,000 psi, 20 min) improved water vapor permeability (2.1 x 10-9 g/m s Pa) compared to films obtained by heat (3.0 x 10-9 g/m s Pa). Results were not evaluated during storage.

Similarly, pressure gradually reduced the water vapor permeability of a soy protein isolate (SPI) film from 6.6 (unprocessed) to 5.8 g-mm/m2-h-kPa after processing at 5000 bar/72,500 psi for 10 min (Wei et al, 2018). They also found that molecular reorientation resulting from the effects of high pressures reduced protein aggregates, resulting in a smoother microstructure that improved the elasticity of SPI films.

Hyperbaric In – Bulk Technology

The worldwide innovation developed by Hiperbaric, the Hiperbaric Bulk technology allows processing large volumes of bulk drinks, before bottling. Unlike the typical in-pack process, this is a more ecological alternative, since it allows the use of any type of packaging after the HPP process. In addition to biodegradable containers (plastic), through this process, liquids can be bottled in any other more environmentally friendly material such as glass, metal or paper-based compound packaging, completely avoiding the use of plastic containers.

Biodegradable packaging suitable for HPP or about the many benefits this technology can bring to your products in terms of food safety and quality.

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