Online shopping is such a big part of our lives now, and even more in recent times due to the new coronavirus (at least in where I live). However, we all know that this type of commerce can be really not environment-friendly, mostly because of the packing.
The thing is, we can’t really complain about it either, because we need the items to be in good condition. But at the same time, we don’t know what to do with all those peanuts and foams after, especially knowing that those create more plastic waste.
Maybe that won’t be the case in the future, hopefully soon. We’ve gotta be thankful for human brains and technology, really, because there are packing alternatives which are more eco friendly, like this foam that you can put in your sink and just wash it with water—it’ll dissolve down the drain within 60 seconds or less. And yes, it’s biodegradable.
What’s the magic product? Green Cell Foam. It’s a corn-based foam packing alternative billed as offering “the most flexibility and convenience in disposal options of ANY packaging material—going far beyond just recycling.”
Made by KTM Industries, this product is claimed to be “USDA Certified Biobased Product and 100 Percent Compostable”, so if you have a composter at home, you don’t need to wash and dissolve it all the time.
Worried about your sink if you wash it down the drain frequently? The company stated, “Green Cell Foam is safe for drains, septic tanks and waste treatment centers.”
“We’ve worked with several municipalities to verify that it does not pose any environmental or pollution threat to the water supply, and we’ve tested it as being safe for pipes, septic systems and water systems. When it comes to disposal, there’s just not a more convenient material out there,” said Tim Colonnese, president and CEO of KTM Industries.
Other than that, they also said you can burn the foam in fireplaces, firepits, and power plants because the foam burns cleanly. Hello, barbecue?
Not something new
Apparently, the product has been around since 2002. It had just been under the radar until recently. Why? Because their partnership with Perdue Farms has just happened. For those of you who don’t know, Perdue Farms has launched a new ecommerce website allowing shoppers to buy chicken and other meats directly from the company.
Additionally, they provide the eco friendly packing, “All packaging from online orders is 100 percent recyclable. The foam insulation is made from water-soluble cornstarch, which can be composted or even disintegrated under running water and safely rinsed down a kitchen sink,” stated the company.
“We’ve had significant conversations at the company in the past year about our sustainability efforts and what more we can do to reduce the impact on the environment,” said David Zucker, the senior vice president of e-commerce and new ventures of the company.
Besides Perdue Farms, there are more larger companies which have been using Green Cell Foam such as Jenny Craig, Crowd Cow, Canada’s NIKU Farms, and Sandoz the pharmaceutical company. “It’s worth going with the ‘green’ solution even if it costs a bit more, because over the long haul, it normally ends up saving money and benefits the environment,” said Mark Kuhl from Sandoz.
So more businesses have switched their packing stuff from the conventional polystyrene, polyethylene, and polyurethane to the corn-based ones. “All three can be recycled, but it’s not convenient for most recipients and most communities do not accept polystyrene,” said Colonnese.
“The materials wind up in your garbage, and ultimately in landfills. With more people using meal delivery services—including my household—customers are complaining about all the packaging waste,” he went on.
Some companies have decided to pack their materials in “biodegradable” or “compostable” packing, but a lot of them do it for the image or they just don’t know any better. Colonnese said, “Most companies and consumers don’t understand that ‘compostable’ really means ‘industrial compostable’—as your backyard compost pile doesn’t get hot enough to break down such materials.”
The truth is that there are only 1% of Americans who have access to industrial composting. According to the KTM Industries CEO, that’s far less than access to polystyrene recycling facilities.
This means that all those “compostable” packaging/packing doesn’t end up in a compost pile and instead wind up in landfills. Contrary to popular belief, this type of material won’t simply decompose there, since the condition (level of heat) can’t break it down.
Colonnese stated that his company’s product can be used for cushioning, which replaces polyethylene and polyurethane, or thermal insulation, which matches the performance of polystyrene. Although it’s made from corn, it’s a great alternative for shipping purposes. Plus, it’s certified compostable.
Another water-soluble product
Like I told you before, technology combined with the human brain can achieve many things. There’s another plastic alternative which acts just as well as the polymer one, but it melts with hot water, almost like Green Cell Foam. It’s a laundry bag launched by DB Packaging which uses Aquapak polymer.
Basically it’s a fully functional laundry bag to contain dirty/contaminated clothing that you can put directly into washing machines. The bags dissolve safely in hot water, without plastic residue to dispose which can potentially cause machine breakdown. Other than that, they’re non-toxic, biodegradable, and marine-safe. I still don’t know whether it’s safe for water treatment centers and the likes, but for me, this sounds great already.
DB Packaging is a New South Wales-based eco packaging company that offers innovative and environmentally sustainable packaging solutions. Aside from their laundry bags, they’ve also made food waste bags made from Aquapak polymer.
Mainly, at least for now, DB Packaging supplies the bags to hospitals, care homes, hotels, and commercial laundries. Which makes sense, because places that need hygiene like the ones mentioned can produce a lot of plastic waste. The company stated that they wanted to have laundry bags which are eco friendly but they have the strength, puncture resistance, barrier properties and durability of traditional laundry bags.
Usually, we need to remove laundry from bags before washing. Might not seem like a big deal, but in places like hospitals, this can potentially contaminate bed linen which has to be incinerated. With this laundry bag, we can reduce the occupational health and safety risks when there is heavily soiled, infectious or cytotoxic content.
“Hydropol™ from Aquapak is already changing the medical arena and will continue to improve the way both businesses and consumers can handle waste. There are many applications for this material but the real winner is the Environment, as the material is water soluble, non-toxic and marine safe,” the director of DB packaging, David Beaver, said.