Compostable plastic-type packaging is baked
A paste made from starch, fiber and little else that is baked in compostable packaging using patented technology from Evanesce Packaging Solutions is a revolutionary recipe for sustainable packaging.
Company founder Douglas Horne was an elected official in the government of British Columbia, Canada, when he discovered the technology. It changed his way of thinking about packaging so much that it prompted Horne to change careers.
“At the time, I felt that we should ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging because of this elegant alternative solution,” he says. “The technology is so fantastic that I left politics to acquire it and then surrounded myself with great people to take it to a commercial level. One of the things that always worried me as a regulator was the fact that many of the products considered sustainable were not. It is.”
The new packaging is a molded starch and fiber product unlike anything else, including thermoformed fiber products, according to Horne. “It looks and feels like a traditional thermoformed plastic tray.”
The word evanescence means to disappear. “This defines the company and our product: Evanesce Molded Starch technology is the essence of what we do,” he explains.
We unpack the technology as Horne points out in a recent interview.
Durable packaging at competitive price.
Brands, retailers and consumers are looking for more sustainable options at a competitive price.
“EPS and other plastics have been so successful in the market because they are inexpensive, versatile, and can be made into many shapes and forms,” says Horne. “Our products are comparable, although possibly slightly more expensive due to the added value attributes.”
The recipe allows for varying ingredients that determine its appearance.
A paste is created from a mixture of 60% starch, 35% fiber, and 5% other ingredients that Horne says is the “secret sauce” that makes it work.
The blend keeps costs low because starch is significantly cheaper than fiber, he says.
“Another exciting aspect of the technology is that the starch and fiber don’t have to come from a specific source,” says Horne. “Ingredients are a variable supply and demand factor to keep costs down by using the cheapest available source of fiber.”
A summary of specific recipe options:
- Different starches can be used, such as tapioca, potato and others.
- Different sources of fiber can be used which are often considered as waste from food production operations, for example, bagasse or rice husks.
- The product color can be white like a standard EPS or gray or look like a brownie, depending on the type of fiber used.
- Colorants can also be used to adjust the color.
The wrapper is baked like a cookie.
The technology adapts standard food processing equipment.
“We are taking technology that has been around for years and adapting it to use a different paste for making packaging,” says Horne. “The dough is formed by a ‘waffle iron’ type molding system in a tray or other form of packaging using the same type of proven machine that makes Twix candy bars, cookies and other food products. We have a mechanized batch process using Bühler’s equipment to produce hundreds of items at a time which are then baked in an oven.
Energy consumption is similar to a thermoforming system.
“The amount of energy required during production is similar to thermoforming processes,” explains Horne. “We use heat recovery systems in our cooking process which have evolved. Our environmental footprint is minimized.
And there is another distinction. “Because of the way it’s made, a unique feature of the packaging is that there is a molded circle on the bottom,” he points out. “It could help distinguish our compostable products from other types of packaging in a municipal landfill. “
The packaging is home compostable in 90 days.
Looking at composting from a regulator’s perspective, Horne suggests “we probably don’t want everyone to have a compost pile in the backyard.”
He believes there will be more industrial composting infrastructure in the coming months, due to the popularity of corn-based polylactic acid (PLA) and other compostable biopolymers and as the economy grows. circular continues to develop.
“This means true ‘dirt to dirt’ circularity for our molded starch products,” he adds.
Barrier packaging is possible.
“We have also worked with partners on coating systems,” says Horne. “For those who require longer oxygen barriers, we have worked with a few partners, which is how we started on the biopolymer side. Depending on the requirement, we can either coat, laminate or just add the barrier as a raw ingredient.
Evanesce packaging solutions
Go beyond the plateaus.
The company has molded many different products.
“One of the cool things we’re grappling with now is a deeper product – cups that look like EPS,” reveals Horne. “These cups offer insulating properties for the food service market. “
Evanesce is involved in the Foodservice Packaging Institute.
“I don’t see the REIT members as competitors,” says Horne. “I see them as future partners, and I see us growing up by licensing our technology and getting widespread adoption as quickly as possible.” He is in talks with a major catering packaging supplier who is very interested.
Commercial scale-up is coming.
R&D operations are in Vienna, Austria. However, having a manufacturing capability in the United States is essential, says Horne. “We will switch to new molded starch production in early 2022 after upgrading our large-scale machines to manufacture millions of units next spring. “
The company also manufactures biodegradable plastic straws.
Another highly sustainable product, Evanesce Packaging Solutions, is the first mass-produced biodegradable straws made from modified polylactic acid (PLA) which are comparable or less expensive than paper straws, offer significantly improved durability and home composting in stores. 90 days. The company’s plant in South Carolina will be able to produce millions of compostable straws daily.