Packaging material made from corn cushions and insulates

While many packaging materials are not industrial compostable, this new, green packaging material washes down the drain.

By ·

As companies grow increasingly concerned about environmental stewardship—or about ensuring their customers’ positive perceptions of the same—there’s been a significant uptick in shippers moving away from polystyrene, polyethylene and polyurethane protective packaging.

“All three can be recycled, but it’s not convenient for most recipients and most communities do not accept polystyrene,” explains Tim Colonnese, president and CEO of KTM Industries. “The materials wind up in your garbage, and ultimately in landfills. With more people using meal delivery services—including my household—customers are complaining about all the packaging waste. My wife was complaining up a storm about this last week.”

Shippers are therefore investigating packaging materials billed as being compostable. “Yet, most companies and consumers don’t understand that ‘compostable’ really means ‘industrial compostable’—as your backyard compost pile doesn’t get hot enough to break down such materials,” says Colonnese. The dirty little secret behind ‘compostable’ is that only 1% of Americans has access to industrial composting. It’s far less than have access to polystyrene recycling facilities.”

That means almost all compostable materials also wind up in landfills. And while one may think the packaging will just decompose there, it’s not true, as landfills also don’t reach the level of heat required to break it down.

As an alternative, KTM offers Green Cell Foam. Colonnese explains that the starch foam material is made from corn, and it can be deployed for cushioning, (replacing polyethylene and polyurethane) or for thermal insulation (matching the performance of polystyrene).

“The material is certified compostable and biodegradable, but the real beauty of it is that it dissolves in water. You can put it in your sink and wash it down the drain—and it’s gone,” he adds. “We’ve worked with several municipalities to verify that it does not pose any environmental or pollution threat to the water supply, and we’ve tested it as being safe for pipes, septic systems and water systems. When it comes to disposal, there’s just not a more convenient material out there.”

About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter
Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.

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Article Topics

Packaging Corner · Sustainability · · All Topics
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