New Polymers and Compounds Mimic Nature

Scientists have developed novel polymers and compounds that can be processed like traditional plastics during manufacturing but are actually derived from renewable plant sources like cellulose, starches, proteins and natural resins. By understanding natural biodegradation processes, they have engineered materials with the same structural integrity as oil-based plastics but programmable breakdown times when exposed to water and microorganisms. Some new biomaterials even use bacteria, algae or fungi in their production process.

Rigid Containers That Vanish Without a Trace

Rigid clamshell containers, food trays, cups and bottle types can now be produced using these innovative Disappearing Packaging materials. One material called Aquamer breaks down completely within 6-12 weeks in compost or landfill conditions and leaves no microplastics behind. It maintains plastic-like strength during transportation and storage but when exposed to the right environmental conditions, its polymer structure is consumed by microbes as an energy source. Other options like NatureWorks PLA plastics and Willow Wood fibers perform similar functions with short biodegradation windows.

Edible and Disintegrable Films Replace Multi-Layered Wraps

Thin films that protect foods and goods during shipping are also gaining disappearing varieties. Some are made from sustainable polymers that can actually be eaten along with product contents. Others are coated paper-like sheets fortified with natural resins and waxes. They maintain barrier properties comparable to wax papers and shrink films but will fall apart when submerged in liquid. One potato chip brand now uses potato starch films that hold up for three months but then dissolve entirely in cold water or inside the human digestive system.

New Standards Ensure Proper Disappearance

As these disappearing solutions proliferate, standards organizations are developing test protocols to ensure materials meet biodegradation claims. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has published six standard methods for evaluating biodegradability of plastics in various disposal environments like compost, soil and freshwater. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also has test methodologies. Independent certifications like the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) approval help manufacturers communicate and brands assure conformity to sustainability goals.

Increased Acceptance in Regulated Markets

Disappearing packaging is gaining a foothold in the European Union marketplace first, as the bloc has strict policies around plastic waste. Major brands in food, personal care, consumer goods and agriculture have utilized solutions approved for compostable or "oxo-degradable" claims. North American regulations are evolving to also promote sustainable solutions. As production capacity increases and prices decrease, many predict biodegradable packaging will become common even in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and medical devices in the coming decade

Get more insights on Disappearing Packaging