The next generation of bioplastics will see an increasing focus on the use of renewable and non-food sources to develop conventional materials like polyethylene, according to Dr. Anne Roulin, Nestlé Global Packaging Chief.
During an interview with FoodProductionDaily.com, Dr. Roulin outlined the company’s position in relation to bioplastics, and described the three-stage evolution of bioplastics.
Dr. Roulin believes the problem with the first generation of bioplastic materials, which included polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), is that “they don’t have the properties required for mainstream applications; particularly the moisture vapour barrier to protect dry products”.
While Nestlé do use the first generation materials, the application is limited. One trend that is beginning to appear is the introduction of conventional plastics made with renewable resources, for example a polyethylene derived from sugar cane.
“This is very interesting”, says Dr. Roulin, “because polyethylene is a material that has been optimised for packaging applications for around 50 years.”
A plant-based PET, produced from partially renewable resources, is also now available and research is underway that will allow it to be 100 percent renewable.
But Nestlé believes the future for bioplastics will be with non-food sources, using materials such as waste products, algae, draught resistance plants and cellulose. Although these developments are still very much at the research stage and we will not be seeing such product packaging until at least 2015 and beyond.