Over the past year packaging suppliers have been introducing various forms of biodegradable plastics made from a variety of plants, in the main corn, based on projections that there will be a growing demand for environmentally-friendly packaging.
The switch to biodegradable packaging is driven by environmentally-conscious consumers and recycling regulations. Some companies are predicting that the market will grow by about 20 per cent a year.
The development is also being pushed by the recent escalation in the price of oil, which is bringing traditional petroleum based polymers into the same range as the previously more expensive non-oil based packaging.
NatureWorks, a Cargill unit, developed and produces polylactic acid (PLA), a material made from corn that can be used for food packaging. Treofan uses the PLA to make a packaging film branded as Biophan.
Treofan said the licensing linkup with NatureWorks will help boost its marketing efforts in the European market.
"By means of the co-branding licence agreement with NatureWorks, we appear together on the market as a team, thus creating the opportunity to promote Biophan and PLA to a wider audience world wide," stated Frank Ernst, Treofan's commercial and technical manager for Biophan. "We are very optimistic that before long, with this partnership, we will continue to convince interested converters and producers of consumer goods of the benefits to using this innovative new generation of films."
The companies will work on marketing Biophan to the food, cosmetics and office material markets. They will promote Biophan as a film with "extraordinary" gloss and transparency, printability and good sealing characteristics.
In an industrial composting plant, Biophan is completely transformed into carbon dioxide and water within 45 days. The recently issued German Packaging Ordinance, which gives preferential treatment up to 2012 to biologically degradable packaging , makes the film attractive to manufacturers in the country, the company stated.
Biophan was originally made at a plant at Mantes-la-Ville, France. Treofan sold the plant to a local company, Polyfilms, this January. The company plans to transfer production to a plant in Neunkirchen, Germany.
Treofan produces about 250,000 tonnes of film a year at seven production sites.
Food packagers last year faced price hikes of between 30 per cent to 80 per cent for conventional plastics due to the increased cost of petroleum. With the increases some bioplastics products reached full price competitiveness with the traditional oil-based packaging.