Packages and closures for packaging

ECO cosmetic packaging – what is it, and what should it be?

We can assume that the world is crazy about environment protection. What would be more correct to say, however, is that the world was crazy when it didn’t think about it at all.
We live in the period in which we already know that our thoughtless attitude to littering the Earth must come to an end.

Which solution should be chosen!
Nowadays, the world is an uninterrupted stream of information and offers. We should stop for a moment and think which offer is the best for our business.  Today, the crowd is ready to shout “the king is naked” louder than ever. The internet exposes even the smallest mistakes and fluffs. Consequently, before starting changes or implementing a new project, we should have comprehensive knowledge, as no one will accuse us then of acting to the detriment of, for example, the planet, taking advantage of greenwashing.
It’s also worth pointing out that environment protection is developing really fast now. We should emphasize from time to time that our actions were supported by knowledge from a given year, and today we are changing our policy, because the knowledge has been updated.
What do we know today about plastics used for packaging?
Sugar cane
Sugar cane has very good press in the context of packaging.
The material produced from is should replace plastic in its existing form. Consequently, it just looks like plastic, which is very confusing. Paradoxically, its this similarity that can do more damage to the environment than plastic made from crude oil....  
It isn’t recycled on a large scale. It may end up in biomass, where it will be processed further. However, today there are few stations for processing it, whereas the whole process is expensive and complicated.
Approximately 30% of classic plastic is added to products made of this material, which disrupts the entire biomass processing process.

What bioplastics are?
PLA is a plastic with the polymer structure, although such a structure may be clearly associated with classic plastics, it’s worth pointing out that polymers can be formed not only from crude oil, but also, for example, from sugar cane.
At this point, it’s important to understand the differences present at the stage at which the raw material for production of both materials is acquired. Crude oil is extracted mainly for petrochemical purposes. The waste generated during the fuel production is used in plastics processing. It accounts for approximately 4% of the total amount of the fossil fuel extracted. Although crude oil isn’t renewable, it will probably be extracted for as long as possible. The global economy isn’t able to resign from it, moving to renewable energy in 100%.
On the other hand, sugar cane is now grown for food, and the residue from food processing, is used to produce, among other things, bioplastic. If, however, the demand rises sharply, it will also increase the area of its cultivation. Today, Brazil is the biggest sugar cane supplier in the world. Consequently, a question arises: at what cost the new land will be acquired for its cultivation.
The arguments in favor o using PLN, i..e. bioplastic, used today may be disastrous in the future.
Each year, only in the European Union itself, the packaging industry needs 15 million tons of plastic. Consequently, that amount needs to be replaced with other materials, including PLA. We could legitimately ask here: where to get this raw material from?
Today cultivation of sugar cane is appreciated due to the fact that the plant absorbs CO2. However, it’s more and more often reported that forests in Brazil are cut down to make room for these crops. it’s quite obvious that sugar cane will absorb much less carbon dioxide than a forest covering the same area.
Another issue disregarded by bioplastic enthusiasts is the irrigation of those fields. As the Earth faces the problem of limited access to fresh water, we can’t be confronted with the choice of whether to irrigate cane fields or grow food. In view of what we know about the cartels in both Americas that control avocado cultivation, it may turn out that the cane, which will become a precious crop, will be seized by unethical businessmen who will do anything for the money from its sale. In such a situation, a sustainable approach to cultivation will be ruled out, and if anyone wants to supply sugar cane in that spirit, they won’t be able to compete with the prices of competitors who don't play fair.
Another issue that we won’t hear in this 'hurrah optimism' is the fact that crops are affected by various diseases, or pests, which will require the use of crop protection products to get rid of. While natural fertilizers are neutral to the environment, the more effective chemicals that combat these problems do impact the entire ecosystem, and penetrating the soil, they get into the water and circulate in the atmosphere.

PLA packaging and what’s next...

What’s a big problem is how to get rid of PLA from the circulation. If we segregate it, it’s burnt, so is subject to energy recovery. Such a short life cycle of the product is against the assumptions of the circular economy. Paradoxically, it’s the best what can happen to it at this stage, as other scenarios are even more harmful to the idea of circularity.
The first one – BIOplastic is thrown out to BIOwaste, because in the consumer’s simple thinking it's both bio and waste, which may suggest that fraction. We need to keep in mind that its chemical structure is almost identical to that of the classic plastic, so it won’t decompose in the conditions in which food waste and plants do. Furthermore, its presence will interfere with the composting process of the BIOwaste proper.
Consequently, it can’t be called biodegradable, because it’s not!
The second place which may be a source of problems is the recycling station.
BIOplastic looks like plastic, behaves like plastic, so it ends up in plastic refuse.
Unless it’s properly sorted from plastic waste and is accidentally recycled together with plastics, the entire batch of the resulting regranulate will be below  the acceptable quality level, and will have to be disposed of. It involves not only a financial loss, but also leads to appearance of refuse which will either end up on a rubbish dump, or be burnt, but will certainly not function long enough in a closed circulation.

The work on recycling of biomass, which processed in the right conditions may be reused, is still underway. However, the number of problems that occur on the road to success prevents it from being implemented to everyday use. Solutions are very expensive, and the plastic added to sugar cane packaging may disrupt the process.

Second part of this text will be publick on 30.06.2022