On Our Radar:

Pioneering Sustainable Solutions in CPG Packaging

Nicholas Carsello
Sr. Account Manager – Realization

August 24, 2023

As packaging experts, we’re deeply invested in what’s happening in and around our industry, from emerging brands to disruptive design trends to innovative materials. From time to time, we’ll highlight a new company, product, or innovation that’s changing everything—and on our radar this month is Danimer Scientific and its suite of sustainable packaging solutions.

As the global movement toward sustainability continues to gain momentum, the consumer packaged goods industry faces increasing pressure to reduce its environmental footprint. With government regulations on single-use plastics looming, companies like Danimer Scientific and their associated partners are emerging as champions of sustainable packaging.

Danimer Scientific’s innovative products, such as Nodax and PHA, along with its comprehensive range of sustainable alternatives, are evolving the CPG space by providing biodegradable alternatives to current petroleum-based plastics which can take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade in nature. The time it would take PHA and Nodax to biodegrade in its suitable environment (not on the shelf) would be between 1.5-3.5 years.

The half-life of single-use plastics, which refers to the time it takes for half of a given amount of plastic to degrade, can vary significantly depending on the type of plastic and environmental conditions. Also, plastics don’t fully “degrade” in the traditional sense; they tend to break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can persist in the environment for much longer.

Here are some approximate half-lives for commonly used single-use plastics:

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): PET bottles used for beverages and food packaging can take around 450 years to degrade in the environment.
  2. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): HDPE plastic, often used for milk jugs and detergent bottles, has a half-life of approximately 20-30 years.
  3. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): LDPE, found in plastic bags and some packaging materials, can take several decades to hundreds of years to degrade.
  4. Polystyrene (Styrofoam): Polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, has an estimated half-life of over 500 years.
  5. Polypropylene (PP): PP, used in products like yogurt containers and bottle caps, can take hundreds of years to degrade.

PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) and Nodax®: A Breakthrough Alternative to Single-Use Plastic

Danimer Scientific’s flagship product, Nodax, represents a breakthrough in sustainable packaging materials. Nodax is a bio-based and compostable biopolymer derived from renewable resources such as soy or canola. It offers comparable performance to traditional plastics while being fully biodegradable, compostable, and marine-degradable. Some practical applications for Nodax include straws, cups, lids, bottles, produce bags, shopping bags, utensils, plates, wipes, plastic toys, trash bags, seals, labels, glues, and much more.

In addition, PHA:

  • Can be adapted to current equipment with minor adjustments to processing conditions.
  • Exhibits robustness suitable for rapid processing in a manufacturing environment.
  • Aligns with the performance attributes (look & feel) desired by the customer.
  • Ensures compliance with relevant FDA regulations, including certifications for end-of-life and food-contact suitability.

The image above demonstrates the made-to-order process of combining PHA with other biopolymers to create Nodax.

Phade straws are made of DNMR product PHA, a biodegradable resin sourced from plant-based oils such as canola or soy.

Address Regulatory Challenges, Move Toward Circularity

Government regulations on single-use plastics have significant implications for the CPG industry. With the increasing focus on reducing plastic waste and promoting circular economies, companies must adapt and find sustainable alternatives.

Danimer Scientific’s PHA represents the first bioplastic resin to gain TUV (formerly Vinçotte) certification for its complete biodegradability and composability across all mediums, encompassing soil, compost, freshwater, and saltwater environments. In addition, Danimer Scientific’s PHA has received FDA approval for its application in food-contact scenarios. Beyond its full biodegradability, this material ensures a minimal environmental impact as it decomposes without leaving any harmful residues.

Below is a short list of examples of U.S. states that have implemented regulations on single-use plastics in recent years:

  1. California:
    • Date in effect: November 8, 2016 (Proposition 67)
    • Law: Proposition 67 banned single-use plastic bags at most grocery stores and required a minimum charge for recycled paper bags or reusable bags.
  2. New York:
    • Date in effect: March 1, 2020
    • Law: The “Bag Waste Reduction Law” banned single-use plastic bags at most retail locations.
  3. Hawaii:
    • Date in effect: July 1, 2015
    • Law: The “Plastic Bag Reduction Act” was passed to ban single-use plastic bags at checkout counters in an effort to reduce plastic pollution.
  4. Chicago, IL:
    • Date in Effect: August 1, 2015
    • Law: The “Chicago Checkout Bag Tax” went into effect on August 1, 2015. This law imposed a tax of 7 cents on each disposable bag – whether plastic or paper – provided at checkout in larger retail establishments. The aim was to reduce the use of single-use bags and encourage the use of reusable bags.
  5. Oregon:
    • Date in effect: January 1, 2020
    • Law: The “Senate Bill 90” banned single-use plastic bags at large retailers.

Defra and the UK:

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has released guidelines for a forthcoming single-use plastics ban taking effect from October 1, 2023. The ban targets the supply and sale of single-use plastic plates, bowls, trays, containers, cutlery, and balloon sticks, both in physical stores and online. Exemptions include the supply of single-use plastic plates, bowls, and trays to other businesses or as packaging for pre-filled items. However, there are no exemptions for the ban on single-use plastic cutlery, as well as ready-to-consume food and drink in polystyrene containers. Violations of the ban could lead to fines, and local authorities and trading standards inspectors will ensure compliance.

Meeting Consumer Demand for Sustainability

Sustainable material companies like DNMR and others are set to meet evolving consumer attitudes which are growing increasingly in demand for products that align with their environmentally conscious values. Sustainable flexible packaging solutions enable CPG companies to meet these demands and cater to eco-minded consumers.