What is the disadvantages of biodegradable packaging

Table of Contents

The disadvantages of biodegradable packaging include higher production costs, limited durability, and specific conditions required for effective decomposition.

Introduction to Biodegradable Packaging

Definition and Types

Biodegradable packaging refers to packaging materials that can be broken down by microorganisms into natural substances like water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. The main types of biodegradable packaging include:

  • Plant-based polymers: Made from renewable resources such as corn starch, sugarcane, or potato starch.
  • Biodegradable plastics: Such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which decompose under certain conditions.
  • Edible packaging: Created from natural food ingredients, designed to be eaten or composted after use.

Comparison with Traditional Packaging

Feature Biodegradable Packaging Traditional Packaging
Material Source Renewable resources like plants and biomass Non-renewable resources like petroleum
Decomposition Decomposes in weeks to months under the right conditions Can take hundreds of years to decompose
Environmental Impact Lower carbon footprint, reduces waste in landfills Contributes to pollution and long-term environmental damage
Cost Generally higher due to production and material costs Typically lower due to established manufacturing processes
Durability May have limited durability compared to traditional materials Often more durable and resistant to various environmental factors
Recycling Can be composted, reducing the need for recycling Requires recycling to avoid environmental harm

Biodegradable packaging offers a more sustainable alternative to traditional packaging, but it also comes with challenges such as higher costs and limited durability. As technology advances, these issues are being addressed to make biodegradable packaging a more viable option for businesses and consumers.

Environmental Impact

Biodegradability and Decomposition Rates

Biodegradable packaging is supposed to decompose faster than traditional ones do, and increasingly it is used for materials. Its decomposition rate depends on the materials and their condition. Polylactic acid or PLA is a common biodegradable plastic that can dissolve in a commercial composting site in 90-180 days, and a traditional plastic, polyethylene or PE takes hundreds of years, and in some cases, it never brakes down .In some conditions, the biodegradation is a very quick process, and the material cannot be distinguished from compost. In other situations, the rate may be much slower, such as in the case of a landfill, designed in a manner that facilitates very slow decomposition, for the lack of access to enough oxygen or water .

Greenwashing Danger

As partially mentioned above, increasingly, there is a danger of biodegradable packaging greenwashing. This means that customers trust a certain packaging to be truly biodegradable, while this is not, as in the sense that only in very special circumstances it will decompose, while outside of those conditions, it will not be linen.Customers should be aware that not all packaging that claims to be 100% biodegradable should be trusted.Degenerate packaging should be certified accordingly. One such standard for compostable plastic is crafted by ASTM D6400 .


Cost and Economic Viability

Productions and Material Costs

Producing biodegradable packaging is more expensive rather than producing traditional packaging because it uses more renewable resources and complicates processes.  Production costs of polylactic acid (PLA) which is one of the most popular biodegradable materials can be 20%-50% more expensive than conventional plastics, as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) . Possible reasons are higher costs for raw biodegradable material from crops, such as corns and sugarcane, and the purchasing of equipment and systems which should be specifically changed. Another reason is that traditional plastics may have economy of scales so that their costs are less.

Pricing and Profit Margins

The increased productions and materials costs will lead to increased costs of the products. Producers and retailers may decide to increase costs, to charge extra to customers, or absorb the increased costs. Environmentally friendly packaging may cause a premium to customers, but the average rate is only less than 10%-20% . It can be seen that there is a gap between the increased costs and premiums, and it can lead to profit squeeze. It is a critical issue, especially in the industries where price competition is very crucial. To solve this problem, companies should emphasize costs innovations in producing materials and equipment as well as the numbers of manufacturing processes and changes. The technology changes and development can decrease the increased prices and create biodegradable materials which are cost competitive to traditional plastics. Banking on the images and appeals of environmentally friendly packaging is also helpful so that companies can charge extra costs. The ideal and optimum systems rely on the management of the production costs and customer demands in relation to sustainable and environment-friendly products. As more consumers demand biodegradable packaging, it can be concluded that economy of scales will be achieved and productions costs will be decreased soon.

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