US-based environmental packaging developer EarthShell has licensed out its technology to Meridian Business Solutions (MBS), in a move that further underlines the growing importance of green packaging.
"We believe it is both refreshing and significant that a company outside of the food service packaging industry is making a considerable commitment based on their analysis of the market, and on the importance of offering this alternative food service packaging," said EarthShell president Vincent Truant.
MBS is now gearing itself up to manufacture and distribute EarthShell's packaging for the food industry, and has already placed an equipment purchase order with Detroit Tool & Engineering (DTE).
Delivery and installation of the first series of modules is scheduled for completion by mid-October. It is planned that these initial modules will be brought to full operating effectiveness and in commercial production later in the year, with product flowing to the market shortly thereafter.
Specific MBS market segments are being finalised and, along with details of the purchase order, will be announced shortly.
"MBS believes that the EarthShell technology offers unique and significant advantages compared to traditional food service disposable packaging," said Greg Hoffman, MBS managing partner. "We know that consumers want and will buy environmentally preferable products at competitive prices."
Hoffmann said that the company's purchase order to DTE illustrates MBS's ability to compete effectively in the food service disposable packaging industry, and claimed that MBS has a proven track record in process manufacturing.
EarthShell is a development stage company engaged in the licensing and commercialisation of proprietary composite material technology for the manufacture of foodservice disposable packaging, including cups, plates, bowls, hinged-lid containers, and sandwich wraps.
In addition to certain environmental characteristics, the company claims that it's packaging is designed to be cost and performance competitive compared to other foodservice packaging materials.
EarthShell products reduce the environmental burdens of rigid food service packaging through the use of certain raw materials, processes and suppliers. The products are made primarily from natural limestone and starch from potatoes, wheat or corn.
The company says that the new packaging poses substantially fewer risks to wildlife than polystyrene foam packaging because it biodegrades when exposed to moisture in nature, physically disintegrates in water when crushed or broken, and can be composted in a commercial facility (where available) or in your backyard.
In addition, the company has recently introduced flexible packaging in the form of sandwich wraps that also have been developed using a "life cycle inventory." Like EarthShell's rigid packaging, the wraps also biodegrade when exposed to moisture and bacteria in nature.
EarthShell is at the cutting edge of biodegradable food packaging, a burgeoning sector of the packaging industry. Other innovators in this field include Cargill Dow, whose NatureWorks PLA plastic made from corn has just been given food contact approval in Japan.
In June 2004 the material, NatureWorks PLA, received positive listing as a new base polymer on the Self-Restrictive Requirements on Food-Contacting Articles from the Japanese Hygienic Olefin and Styrene Plastics Association (JHOSPA).
This listing signals a significant commercial milestone, as it allows NatureWorks PLA to be used in a wide range of food applications for everything from fresh fruit to sushi.
The manufacturer believes that based on prevailing Japanese consumer attitudes, the timing is ideal to introduce branded food packaging that can help lessen dependence on limited fossil fuel resources.
Made from corn, NatureWorks PLA is the first commercially viable biopolymer derived from an annually renewable resource that performs equal to or better than traditional resins. Packaging made from NatureWorks PLA is 100 per cent nature-based and can degrade in industrial compost facilities.
The technology to produce NatureWorks PLA essentially "harvests" the carbon, which plants remove from the air during photosynthesis and store in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars.
The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make plastic, called polylactide (PLA), through a simple process of fermentation, separation and polymerisation.