5th PLA World Congress

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  • Cambridge Consultants: bioplastics in food packaging


    At World Bio Markets, held this week in Amsterdam, innovation specialists Cambridge Consultants revealed a vision for the use of PHA bioplastics in convenience food packaging - the first stage in Cambridge Consultants’ wider strategy to introduce sustainable bioplastics into the product design toolkit, across a wide range of industries.

    PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) are biodegradable, readily compostable thermoplastics, produced by microbial fermentation of carbon-based feedstocks. The properties of PHA polymers are customisable, depending on the specific combinations of different monomers incorporated into the polymer chain.

    To demonstrate the potential of PHA bioplastics in the food service industry, Cambridge Consultants has designed a range of biodegradable plastic products, all served up on a bioplastic tray. Bioplastics – plastics which are bio-derived, biodegradable or both – are an increasingly viable technical alternative to conventional polymers. New industrial processes mean that bioplastics can be produced from post-consumer waste, converting environmentally damaging waste into a valuable resource to be used as a feedstock for industrial processes.

    To date, the uptake of bioplastics in food service has been limited by technical performance at high temperatures, cost and limited supply. Whilst there has been limited


    introduction of cups for cold beverages made from PLA, a bioplastic derived from cornstarch, these are not suitable for hot drinks. Cambridge Consultants evaluated a range of biopolymers and identified materials which are suitable for use in even the most challenging food applications, such as a single use coffee pod and microwave tray.

    Catherine Joce, Sustainability and Circular Economy Lead at Cambridge Consultants said, “for generations there has been a dependency between economic growth and increased resource consumption and emissions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Businesses across all industries are beginning to realise the potential of innovation to improve both profit and sustainability”.

    Bioplastics provide convenience at the point of disposal. All items in this set are designed to decompose in industrial composting facilities, meaning they can be disposed of alongside food waste – eliminating the need for sorting, washing and separate bins.

    PHA bioplastics represent one example of many radical sustainable innovations which are decoupling business success from environmental impact. Cambridge Consultants works with multinational businesses to deliver step-change improvements in sustainability through cutting edge technology. The global bioeconomy is growing rapidly and Cambridge Consultants is fully invested in its future success. Using state-of-the-art facilities and techniques, our synthetic biology team fuses expertise in biology, chemistry and engineering to convert research-driven discovery into breakthrough products and services for industries as diverse as consumer products, healthcare and agritech.

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