What are the Plant-based and environmentally-friendly plastic-alternatives available to businesses?
While the pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we live our lives, the hospitality and catering sector has been particularly hard-hit. In response, restaurants and cafes adapted to offering a greater range of takeaway and delivery options. With that, countless scores of plastic containers are thrown away as the food industry expands rapidly. Recycling is rarely an option for this sector and the use of reusable containers isn’t always possible, leaving a huge proportion of single-use plastics discarded in landfill. In response, there are a growing number of plant-based and environmentally-friendly alternatives for businesses to consider in place of single-use plastics.
The term Bioplastics refers to a type of plastic that can be made from biodegradable and biobased material. Biobased products come from renewable resources, whereas biodegradable materials degrade organically after use. Bioplastics are as strong as regular plastics since they only break down under specified conditions. Some bioplastics can be composted at home, while others must be industrially composted.
The two most familiar renewable bioplastics are Polyactic Acid (PLA) and Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). PLA is made up of corn starch, sugarcane and tapioca roots, and is often the plastic packaging alternative for plastic bottles, salad boxes, coffee cups, compostable cutlery and plastic films. PHA, however, is derived from carbon-based feedstocks via microbial fermentation and is often the plastic alternative used for medical equipment like sutures and scaffolds, in addition to single-use food and beverage packaging.
Seaweed is more readily available than corn or sugar cane. Seaweed packaging is created from raw material harvested and fermented without chemicals. Seaweed is an excellent choice for ecological packaging because it is biodegradable and zero-waste. Seaweed packaging is often used to wrap sandwiches, burgers, and other snacks, as well as to substitute plastic sachets used to package instant coffee and noodle flavouring. How amazing is that!
The coconut husk – the natural fibre found between the shell and the outer layer of the coconut provides a great plastic-free packaging alternative. When compressed, this fibrous substance makes packaging that is similar to cardboard in appearance and function. You may even have some at home already: coconut husks are often used in the production of doormats, brushes, yarn and particleboard, among other things. What’s even better is that coconut shells are often hollowed out and cleaned to provide a fully green food packaging alternative. Coconut shells can be used as bowls, cups and trays, either single-use or as a long-lasting addition to the kitchen cupboard.
Next on the list is Mushroom Mycelium. Did you know that mushrooms can be used for packaging? By blending fungus sprouts or mycelia with seedlings or agricultural leftovers, combined Mushroom Mycelia cells act as a natural adhesive that resembles commercial Styrofoam. Incredibly, this material is used in the manufacture of clothing, footwear and packaging.
Sugarcane bagasse is the dry, pulpy, fibrous material that remains after sugarcane is crushed to extract the juice. As a biofuel, it is used to generate energy, heat, and electricity, as well as other products. Sugarcane Bagasse contains physical qualities that make it suitable for use in the production of cardboard, printing paper, newspapers, and biodegradable plastics, among other things.
Cellulose is a naturally occurring chemical compound found within the cell walls of trees, hemp, wood pulp, and cotton. Cellulose is often used in the production of netted bags, food bags and cellophane.
While not plant-based, it may surprise you to learn that biodegradable, low-cost, and appropriate alternatives to shopping bags and food packaging can be made from shrimp shells too! Shrimp and other crustacean shells contain a strong polysaccharide called chitin which can serve as an environmentally safe replacement for plastics.
So there we have the top environmentally-friendly plastic alternatives currently widely used on the market. For a wide selection of eco-to-go food packaging, head over to our shop.