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Food packaging is useful, necessary and above all exists to protect the contents. The disadvantage: after its use, many packages are not or hardly recyclable. That’s because they are made of several materials, but also because they are contaminated by food.

Global warming and environmental pollution are key sustainability issues. The use of plastic in packaging is frowned upon today, but a differentiated approach is necessary here.

The central problem with food packaging is its disposability. Regarding sustainability we have to answer two questions. Firstly, when is packaging necessary? Secondly, which is the most sustainable packaging? Food packaging should only be used if it reduces greenhouse gases. In 2018, global food production was responsible for 26 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, less than 1 per cent for its packaging - 1. 6 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions were caused by non-consumed food. Conclusion: Whenever packaging extends the shelf life of food, it is sustainable, whether it is made of paper, glass or plastic.

Is there one right packaging solution for everything?

To answer the question of the most sustainable packaging, their functionality and disposability must be reconciled. Experts agree: waste should not be landfilled or incinerated, but can only be sustainably recycled or composted. The question of when packaging should be recycled or composted depends primarily on the content of the packaging. A good example is the compostable bin liner: 1kg of bin liner can convert 800kg of kitchen waste into 300kg of nutrient-rich compost. In many countries, coffee capsules and tea bags are also made of compostable materials.

There are two main aspects when it comes to recycling packaging: Loss of quality and energy consumption. Packaging made of glass, aluminium and steel can often be recycled, but production, transport and recycling require a relatively high energy input. Plastic and paper can also be recycled, but not as often as desired, because they degrade during recycling.

But the best selection is of no use if the infrastructure does not exist. In many households in Germany, plastic and biomass are collected separately. Unfortunately, however, both are then incinerated together. Thus, Germany incinerates 85 per cent of its plastic and 5 million tonnes of biomass. In addition, 5 million tonnes of household wastes are imported to utilise existing incineration plants. This results in considerable amounts of waste materials, which are now mostly disposed of in road construction.

Where and why should you use compostable packaging?

Wherever possible, biomass should be composted. This organic recycling helps the environment because it returns the organic carbon to nature as a kind of fertiliser and closes the cycle. This also helps residual waste because it can be recycled more easily. In organic recycling, i.e. composting, biopolymers, which consist entirely or partly of renewable raw materials, break down in industrial or domestic compost. A classic industrial composting cycle takes about 6 - 12 weeks.

The biopolymer bags made from BIOTEC's material fit completely into this process and are thus an optimal disposal solution for organic waste. With them, not only food waste but also packaging contaminated with food waste can be fed into the composting process.