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FLEXO Magazine : March 2008
36 FLEXO MARCH 2008 www.flexography.org TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES from its private label brands; and, to in- centivise buyers, by means of a Scorecard, toward packaging that is recyclable or from renewable resources. The goal is to divert waste from land-fills to recyclers, and to composting, by the use of certified biodegradable packaging substrates. TEST & CERTIFICATION PROCEDURES Next, we come to the test procedures that qualify material as biodegradable. Below is a brief guide to ASTM 6400 (U.S.) & EN13432 (Europe) standards for compo- stability and biodegradability: In simple terms, the biodegradability of the material is compared to a con- trol (pure cellulose) and must biode- grade to a minimum of 90 percent of the control level. Components of the packaging mate- rial constituting more than 1 per- cent by weight must be measured individually, and also biodegrade to a minimum of 90 percent of the con- trol level. Components making up less than 1 percent by weight are exempted, but the sum of such constituents must not compromise biodegradation. Pilot composting and plant-growing tests are also carried out on the material. Heavy metal tests are also required. After successful completion, a dos- sier is submitted to the certification body, like the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) for approval and certification. METHODS OF COMPOSTING Basically, there are two methods of composting: Industrial composting, which can be either in-vessel or windrow meth- od; and home composting. A point to note is that oxo-degradable products (based on plastic with the addition of additives to trigger fragmentation) are not suitable for industrial composting. They do not break down effectively in the required times- cales for commercial composting. They are not certified to ASTM 6400 and not recognized by the Biodegradable Products Institute. CHALLENGES FOR BIO-BASED FILMS Let's first take a look at the barrier prop- erty requirements for biodegradable and compostable films. Gas barrier properties are not such a major issue. Certain starch and cellulose-based materials can exhibit good inherent gas barrier characteristics. However, moisture barrier is an issue. A major factor facing the introduction of bio-based films in place of oil-based films is their current cost. Recent increases in polyolefin resin price have had a signifi- cant effect on the cost of these films, but there is still a substantial difference. Still, the gap is narrowing as the price of finite fossil fuel-based materials increases. Unlike renewable energy, bio-based films do not receive financial support during their development and market- entry stage. These have to be borne by the developer. But, let's not forget that bottled water costs 10,000 times more than tap water, and is often more expensive, per gallon, than gasoline. And, just for information, the EU has introduced legislation to progressively remove the biodegradable element from landfill and direct it to composting fa- cilities. We could certainly do with more composting facilities in the U.S. In terms of package disposal, one of the industry's biggest hurdles for the adoption of com- postable materials is the lack of curb-side collection and municipal composting facilities. Municipal composting would "complete the circle" for biodegradable materials, which will degrade back to use- able compost material. Consumer aware- ness programs must also be introduced to educate the consumer of the need to com- post. Otherwise it will all be for naught! CONCLUSION For the most part, the industry is turn- ing the corner on these hurdles. Enough reasons for change are becoming more evident because of high petroleum prices, scarcity of supply and negative environ- mental impact. Retailers will play a pivotal role in this change from reliance on a non-renewable to a renewable resource that could be extended to all forms of packaging. The move might be slow to bio-based films, but undoubtedly, the rate of change will be largely dependent on the cost and avail- ability of oil-based resins that are currently used for the majority of flexible packaging films like PP and PET. It has been found that consumers, in general, like the basic concept of com- postable products. The added cost per individual pack is normally small (i.e. less than .005 cent/consumer pack) and more than likely acceptable to the consumer if he/she can easily dispose of the packaging within the food waste stream with reduced disposal costs. So, let's remember, packaging from nature, packaging for nature. It's only natural! ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Malcolm Cohn is market manager -- Americas for Innovia Films. Malcolm was transferred to Atlanta from South Africa eight years ago. Innovia Films manufactures two packaging films, viz. cellophane, for which they are global leaders, and specialized polypropylene. As market manager for the Americas, Cohn's key focus today is to manage and coordinate the intro- duction of Innovia Films' new range of bio- degradable and compostable packaging films, marketed under the NatureFlexTM tradename, into the Americas. He is Innovia's representative on the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), the US Composting Council (USCC) and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). He is also serves on Wal-Mart's Sustainable Value Network (SVN).