PHA - Biodegradable, Renewable, and Compostable Packaging Material
When we were working at The Coca-Cola Company, we felt helpless in the face of criticism about the environmental impact of our packaging. And often wished there was a packaging material that used renewable feedstock, was safely biodegradable and compostable in the environment, and versatile enough to address many needs.
To our pleasant surprise, when we started Ubuntoo we discovered that there was already such a material, and it is commercially available. It is called PHA, and it is gaining a lot of attention from customers and investors, attracting millions of dollars of funding. However, it doesn’t serve the need for beverage packaging, and is not yet widely available at commercial scale. But based on our research, we believe it has the potential to be a gamechanger for many industries that use plastics.
Our in-house expert, Dr. Sandeep Kulkarni, has written a brief description of the technology which you can read below. We are preparing a report about this promising material for the benefit of our business and enterprise members. Non-members can purchase a copy by replying to this newsletter with an expression of interest.
Thank you again for being part of the Ubuntoo network.
Venky & Peter
Co-Founders — Ubuntoo
FOCUS ON PHA
Polyhydroxy alkanoates or PHAs are a unique family of linear polyesters that are produced exclusively by a bacterial fermentation process. Specially engineered bacterial strains are fed with different types of carbon sources such as vegetable oils or waste biomass and deprived of oxygen or other nutrients. PHA family of polyesters includes PHB (polyhydroxy butarate) and PHBV (polyhydroxy butyrate-valerate). Interest in PHAs has grown exponentially in the past year fueled in large part due to concerns about plastic litter in oceans and on land.
PHAs, apart from being fully bio-based (derived purely from renewable biological sources), have the unique property of complete biodegradation (into CO2 and water) within a relatively short timeframe. They decompose in a wide variety of environments and conditions such as industrial composting, home composting as well as potentially in marine environments. This makes PHAs attractive materials for use in single-use plastic food service items such as straws, forks and so on. These items are typically not recycled and have a high likelihood of ending up as litter on land or in oceans. The use of PHAs can allow these items to degrade within a few months if they inadvertently get washed into oceans.
Caution needs to be exercised however, that use of PHAs does not give consumers “license to litter”. PHAs can be recycled in closed loop facilities dedicated to PHA recycling only. However, current PET and HDPE recycling lines cannot accept PHA because it can contaminate the process.
We list below a small sample of PHA manufacturers on Ubuntoo, ranging from early stage startups to in-market producers. Just use your login to browse for more solutions and follow them (member feature) to stay up to speed on the latest developments.
RWDC Industries develops innovative and cost-effective biopolymer material solutions.
Mango Materials produces biodegradable polymers from waste biogas that are economically competitive with conventional, oil-based plastics.
Danimer Scientific uses renewable and sustainable biopolymers to create plastic products that are biodegradable and compostable.
Full Cycle Bioplastics tackles plastic pollution and climate change by transforming organic matter into a compostable alternative to oil-based plastics.
We're excited to present the Protective Packaging Design Challenge, in partnership with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The Challenge aims at identifying innovations in protective packaging materials and systems that perform well in terms of both functionality and sustainability. Do share this with others in your network or recommend a business or startup that you think might be able to contribute to this challenge.
- With the formal adoption of the single-use plastics directive by the European Council in May, the tussle in Brussels is to decide if PHA is considered a naturally occurring polymer? Or a plastic?
- This week, the European Commission announced the winners of the 2019 European Social Innovation Competition, for their innovative answer to plastic waste and recycling.
- The scale of global efforts to prevent plastic pollution has been revealed in a new report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme.
- In the UK, up to £1 million of government funding is being awarded to boost smart waste tracking.
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If you want to learn more about Bioplastics, try the 40 minute “Essentials of Bioplastics” course developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition
"To solve any problem, you must be optimistic that you can find a solution." — Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”