A new solution to plastic packaging

  • by Vivienne Austin

It’s everywhere and we’ve all used it before and seen it discarded in places it shouldn’t be: Plastic packaging. From the water bottles we sip from to the bubble wrap protecting our online orders to the thin protective layer we buy our fruit and vegetables in.  Plastic packaging is ubiquitous in our daily lives due to its lightweight, durable, and cost-effective nature. It serves various purposes such as preserving food freshness, safeguarding delicate items during transportation, and even for disposable products like straws and utensils. However, this convenience conceals the significant environmental challenges it generates. 

The fundamental problem with plastic lies in its persistence; unlike organic materials, plastic does not decompose naturally. Instead, it fragments into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can endure in the environment for centuries. This means that every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in some form today, posing severe threats to wildlife and ecosystems as these microplastics accumulate.



Plastic pollution impacts oceans, rivers, and land areas. Annually, millions of tons of plastic waste find their way into the oceans, forming vast floating garbage patches like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine creatures, from tiny plankton to massive whales, mistakenly consume plastic, leading to ingestion, malnutrition, and fatalities. Birds and terrestrial animals are also at risk; they can become entangled in plastic debris or suffer from consuming plastic waste. The repercussions of plastic packaging extend beyond the environment to human health too. As these microplastics enter the food chain - when ingested by animals - they can contaminate seafood and even drinking water. Of course, as microplastics have only been recently discovered as an issue (personally, I found out in 2012 while doing my MA,  thanks to this scientific paper) and while ongoing research continues, we’re still not sure about the repercussions of these tiny plastics on us humans. But preliminary studies indicate potential health risks for humans too, including diseases and hormonal disruptions linked to these minute plastic particles in our bodies.


Microplastics have been detected everywhere, infiltrating our internal systems - including our blood, heart and brain as well as contaminating our food and water. This contamination also affects our environment, with microplastics found in oceans and even the clouds, as we recently discussed on social media. A recent study in eastern China revealed plastic particles in cloud water samples, indicating a potential influence on weather patterns and cloud formation. Researchers from Shandong University found microplastics in 24 out of 28 cloud water samples collected atop Mount Tai. While the ubiquity of microplastics may seem unbelievable, it's a growing concern. Dive deeper into this research to learn more here.


It’s not just about pollution though. Plastic production also necessitates substantial quantities of fossil fuels. The extraction, refining, and manufacturing processes not only exhaust non-renewable resources but also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As a major contributor to plastic pollution, the plastic packaging industry plays a significant role in intensifying global warming and its associated environmental threats. 


Recently, we came across one innovative solution and alternative to plastic packaging that is emerging and has a lot of potential when it comes to revolutionising the plastic packaging industry: The first bark packaging solution.



This cutting-edge eco-friendly packaging alternative crafted from tree bark is making waves in the market to combat the global plastic waste crisis. Bpacks, a sustainable packaging startup, has introduced this groundbreaking bark plastic packaging technology and is now pioneering this innovation worldwide.


The bark plastic packaging is designed to biodegrade into nutrient-rich compost within one to two months in moist soil conditions. It is composed of up to 75% by-products from the forest industry, agricultural materials, and used coffee grounds. Industries like timber and agriculture face challenges in disposing of these by-products, while food service companies grapple with high waste management costs. Bpacks steps in by repurposing this waste into packaging material, reducing carbon emissions by up to six times compared to standard plastic production methods. Plus, this eco-friendly material seamlessly integrates with current plastic production machinery, eliminating the need for costly new equipment.


The introduction of this innovative solution could expedite the shift away from traditional petroleum-based plastics as global regulations become more stringent. With the plastic packaging industry under increasing pressure to adopt sustainable practices, Bpacks is well-positioned to tap into this growing market, projected to reach $285 billion by 2027.


[info sourced on supplychain.edf.org, happyeconews.com and bpacks.eco

All images sourced on canva.com]


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