Everything Comes at a Cost, But Bio-Based Boards Outweigh Traditional Plastics

The Promise and Pitfalls of Bio-Based Packaging

As awareness grows regarding the environmental impacts of conventional plastics, interest has surged in more sustainable options like bioplastics and bio-based paperboards. However, while these renewable solutions aim to reduce footprints, their production and use still have tradeoffs. When weighing pros and cons though, plant-derived packaging provides significant advantages.

The Appeal of Bio-Based Materials

Bioplastics and bio-boards originate largely from vegetable oils, corn, and wood fibers rather than fossil fuels. Generating these renewable sources typically emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to drilling, fracking, and refining oil and gas for traditional plastics. Plant-based materials also better integrate back into the natural environment if littered versus conventional plastics that can linger for centuries.

The Hidden Impacts

However, bioplastics and bio-boards still demand land and resources to grow their plant inputs. Excessive water and pesticides enable farming their components, occasionally degrading habitats to expand crop areas. And not all bioproducts decompose quickly, with some creating microplastics pollution nearly as concerning as conventional plastics.

Unique production chemicals also help create the moisture, oil and vapor barriers that make paperboards effective for food packaging. For example, Aqua+ paperboard from Stora Enso utilizes a bio-based dispersion coating to achieve necessary liquid and grease resistance while improving recyclability. But additives like these may still accumulate in ecosystems over time.

The Promise of Aqua+ Paperboard

Aqua+ paperboard aims to strike an optimal balance – reducing fossil resources for effective functionality while still enabling repulping and fiber recovery after use. The technology integrates a fluorochemical-free, water-based dispersion barrier that replaces traditional polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) layers in paperboards. This innovative coating allows the board to be both liquid and grease resistant, providing necessary protection for items like paper cups while minimizing fossil materials. Aqua+ aligns with Stora Enso’s mission to replace plastics with renewable wood fibers, emphasizing sustainability.

Weighing the Options

So while bioplastics and bio-based boards have environmental costs, their renewable origins, enhanced biodegradability, and recyclability provide significant advantages over traditional plastic packaging, especially single-use items. As consumers and regulators demand reduced plastic waste, plant-based solutions present a promising direction despite requiring more work to perfect sustainability. Their pros seem to outweigh their cons, offering a better solution than our current fossil-fuel based plastic economy. Renewable does not automatically mean harmless, but it does minimize resource depletion for functionality – a compromise we must consider on packaging’s path to circularity.

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