Originally posted on Modern Materials Handling
By Sara Pearson Specter · December 13, 2017
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.”