Packaging Comparison – Biodegradable vs Conventional Takeaway Packaging
We have a great range of biodegradable take away packaging, and it was time to do a comparison of the packaging against conventional packaging to see if it was a suitable competitor. We put our packaging up against a standard cardboard burger box and a large cooldrink cup with lid, a single walled takeaway coffee cup with cardboard sleeve, and a plain disposable paper plate.
You can see larger versions of each image by clicking on them.
Our biodegradable burger box is made from bagasse fibres. Our takeaway competitor is a common cardboard burger box with printed coating for branding. The cardboard is fairly thin which results in a flimsy and weak container, especially when containing a large burger. The bagasse is thicker and feels stronger, and holds its shape better with a burger inside. The cardboard wasn’t able to withstand any kind of liquid, make the board weaker on the inside and damaging the printed coating on the outside. The bagasse was able to withstand more liquid and didn’t have much damage inside or out. For us, the bagasse box is a much better option, and probably has a better chance of keeping your burger safe.
Our biodegradable cup (we used the 12oz) is also made from bagasse with a PLA lid. The takeaway cup was made from cardboard with a wax coating inside. The takeaway cup feels fairly sturdy, but it’s easy to see that without the wax coating the cup would absorb the liquid and fall apart. Wax coated products aren’t recyclable due to the combination of chemicals and have to be handled separately when thrown away. The bagasse cup didn’t feel as sturdy as the takeaway cup, but for a single-walled cup, it was still strong and didn’t absorb any liquid even though it didn’t have a wax coating. While the bagasse cup looks smaller than the takeaway cup, it can still take just as much liquid, and it won’t biodegrade while you’re drinking!
We used the same biodegradable cup as above as it can contain both cold and hot drinks – something not many takeaway products can boast! The takeaway cup was a single walled cardboard cup with a cardboard sleeve (not shown). It was able to retain heat for a fair length of time, but the outside of the cup was too hot to touch without the sleeve. It retained heat for roughly the same length as the bagasse cup, with the assistance of the sleeve. Both the bagasse cup and lid are biodegradable, unlike the takeaway cup – the cup also has a wax coating inside which means it is not recyclable. The lid is a Type 6 plastic which is recyclable but not environmentally friendly. the only part of this cup that can be recycled is the cardboard sleeve.
Our bagasse plate is a 26cm plate. We do also have an 18cm plate option. Our takeaway plate is a plain ‘paper’ plate made from layered paper. The paper plate felt thin and flimsy, and unable to hold much weight, making eating anything off it more than a mission. The bagasse plate is much thicker and feels considerably stronger. It can hold more weight than the paper plate, and can resist liquids far better – the paper plate simply absorbs liquids and damages the plate. The bagasse plate is fully biodegradable, although the paper plate is recyclable at least, but not as environmentally friendly.
From all our comparisons, we’ve found our biodegradable packaging to be a great alternative to most of the usual takeaway options. They feel stronger and more capable, less likely to break in use, able to withstand liquids and heat. Not that the other packaging can’t do that as well, but we feel the biodegradables do it better. Want to find out why? Order your biodegradable packaging from us today to see and feel the difference!
See our pressure test of a plastic knife and a biodegradable knife!
Bagasse Versus Plastic: An Infographic
Check out this infographic (click on the thumbnail to enlarge) that covers each materials’ process, and see which one you think is better for the environment. This infographic shows it’s a lot easier to go green than you think.
The innovation of plastic saw the beginning of an exciting era for the world of packaging. But with this era came another one – plastic pollution. The evironmental impact of plastic was only realised too late. Plastic does not biodegrade, but fills areas of land with pollution.
However, the discovery of bagasse has revolutionised the packaging industry. It means that environmentally friendly food packaging can be manufactured. It uses sustainable materials and is eco friendly. We still need to be conscious about what we throw away and where, but biodegradable packaging means we can create a cleaner future.
The benefits of bagasse – from beginning to end – far outweigh plastic, and the products are just as good as conventional plastic products, something no other ‘alternative’ material can boast.
Switching to Bagasse Packaging
Styrofoam and plastic food packaging is ubiquitous in fast-food outlets, restaurants, and the canteens of large office buildings. But hundreds of thousands of tons of polystyrene end up in the world’s landfills every year, and will stay there for over 500 years.
The major driver of the dominance of polystyrene is its cost compared to other, more traditional forms of packaging that are semi-biodegradable (paper and cardboard, for example). This was the paradigm during the 1980s and 90s, and when newer materials made from completely biodegradable organic by-products came onto the scene, they represented the much more costly “green” alternative.
Introducing Bagasse Packaging
With significant worldwide investment in renewable biotechnology, the cost of several biodegradable packaging materials has come down to be in line with the conventional Styrofoam and plastics used in the food industry and restaurants. One of the frontrunners is Bagasse packaging.
Bagasse packaging is made from the pulp of the sugar cane plant, and is extremely durable, lightweight, inexpensive, and bio-degrades in 30-90 days once exposed to composting conditions. It can be heated up or frozen, and it has no taste, odour or harmful additives. This makes it an ideal alternative to traditional hinged polystyrene meal containers, plates, cutlery and cups.
Can You Switch to Bagasse Packaging?
If your needs are as simple as a few hundred containers a week for your office canteen, then all you need to do is contact us to arrange to take over your regular supply. If your business is food distribution, or you run the canteen of a large multi-story office complex, then it is well worth it to investigate potential cost-savings and public relations value, aside from the obvious environmental benefit.
The major advantage of bagasse packaging is its affordability and durability. Your entire suite of plates, take-away packaging, cutlery and disposable cups can be made from bagasse, all of which will begin decomposing as soon as it arrives in a compost heap or landfill.
Measuring the Public Relations Value
If your company has committed to sustainability, then switching to bagasse packaging will go a long way in reducing your company’s environmental impact. Marin County in California recently switched to all-biodegradable packaging in their civic centre’s food hall, without an increase in cost. The County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, who pushed for the change, says, “It is all about walking your talk. If you are the kind of organization that has sustainability values and you want to walk your talk, you can’t have a café filled with plastic.”
The impact of your change can easily be measured in terms of the decrease in use of non-biodegradable containers and utensils.
Measuring the Cost Impact of Bagasse Packaging
The cost of bagasse packaging is very low, and it decreases with the size of your orders. As more investment is made in this field and production increases to deal with swelling demand, the price per item is likely to drop over the next decade.
This, added to the brand value gained from improving your company’s commitment to sustainability, should also be factored into the cost impact of bagasse packaging.
What is Bagasse?
Bagasse is a packaging product that holds great promise for sustainable packaging solutions in the future. It is a by-product of the sugar industry, and until recently was discarded in industrial landfills or burnt. Sugar is extracted from a bamboo-like plant called sugar-cane, and Bagasse is the pulp that is left over after the sucrose has been extracted. It is thick, pulpy and fibrous, and can be easily broken down and foamed into any container shape or size.
What is Bagasse Used For?
Bagasse has an obvious use in making biodegradable packaging, especially for the food industry where cheap, lightweight packaging is essential. Aside from being fully bio-degradable, it has a number of advantages over conventional polystyrene or ethanol-based packaging materials:
- Bagasse is cost-comparable to non-biodegradable products, making it easily as affordable, and providing you with an inexpensive way to improve your company’s carbon footprint and green profile
- It can withstand both freezer and oven temperatures (up to 220 degrees Celsius), as well as microwave cooking, which causes polystyrene to melt and release harmful gasses
- Bagasse packaging and disposable crockery and cutlery are stronger, sturdier and better quality than most conventional alternatives, lending less of a “fast-food” feel to food products
- It has no impact on the taste or aroma of food, unlike traditional packaging materials which have a smell of their own and so can affect how food tastes when eaten out of these containers
- It will not absorb oil or leak, even after a long time holding liquids
- Bagasse production promotes jobs and economic growth in developing countries
- It requires very little energy and fuel to produce, meaning that it is low impact and will continue to decrease in price as adoption becomes more widespread
100% Biodegradable Food Packaging
Bagasse’s obvious benefit is that it can completely biodegrade in under 90 days, starting from the time it is exposed to good composting conditions (it won’t begin biodegrading in storage), and can be disposed of in regular garbage bins. Bagasse requires no special processes to recycle or dispose of, and will biodegrade readily in landfills or compost heaps.
In addition, EnviroMall’s Bagasse food packaging is 100% food safe, having being sterilised at both pulp and solid stages before being packed and shipped in sterile environments.
What Can’t You Do With Bagasse?
Bagasse has been used for everything from biofuels to paper and animal feed, but the one thing you can’t do to Bagasse is to make it transparent. This makes it unsuitable as a container for frosted drinks, or for salad boxes and container viewing lids.
Fortunately, nature offers an alternative to bagasse when we need to make transparent containers and eating utensils: Polylactic Acid packaging.