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Bark-based packaging: Bpacks touts wood pellets as “seamless” replacement for plastic

#Bark-based packaging: Bpacks touts wood pellets as “seamless” replacement for plastic


Bark-based packaging concept by Bpacks
(All image credits: Bpacks).

02 Apr 2024 — Packaging start-up Bpacks is looking to replace rigid plastics with its bark-based material that “seamlessly integrates” with current equipment. The technology launches as the EU’s policy directives increasingly incentivize a shift away from single-use plastic packaging.

Bpacks’ 300 square meter R&D center, based in Belgrade, Serbia, produces finished packaging and granules as substitutes for plastic pellets.

The bark-based pellets’ manufacturing production process “closely resembles that of polymers” and does not require capital investments to begin molding since it “mirrors that of plastic production.”

“Traditional bio-packaging often struggles to compete with its plastic counterparts in terms of pricing and integration complexity,” says Mikhail Skalkin, co-founder and CEO at Bpacks.

“Our bio-based plastic substitute can be manufactured using existing plastic production equipment, eliminating the need for plastic factories to purchase new equipment.”

“This facilitates overcoming the market penetration challenges that most sustainable packaging start-ups are facing. Moreover, our packaging is 100% bio-based, with up to 75% of materials sourced from production waste. We also utilize pre-owned equipment, which helps decrease our CO2 emissions.”

Benefits beyond conventional compostables
The Bpacks’ production process starts with compounding, followed by creating pellets or sheets, and concludes with the casting of solid packaging that takes place either by injection molding or thermoforming techniques.

The material fully decomposes in moist soil within one to two months, highlights the company. Nowadays, the most common biodegradable polymers such as PLA or PBAT eventually decompose into water and carbon dioxide in compost.

Mikhail Skalkin and Lev Bolshakov, co-founders of Bpacks.However, neither of these materials add useful compounds to compost. Bark-based material, on the other hand, turns into compost within a week in an active environment, and enriches the compost with valuable nutrients.

The company identifies bark, a byproduct of wood production, as an abundant resource, with estimated bark production levels “between 300 and 400 million cubic meters annually.” This helps ensure that forest resources are not further strained, the start-up maintains.

“Furthermore, studies have highlighted the antimicrobial potential of bark extracts from various tree species, enhancing the functionality of Bpacks’ technology, which emits up to six times fewer CO2 emissions compared to traditional plastic production methods,” highlights the company.

Biomaterials advance circularity
Founded by a team of entrepreneurs and PhD scientists, and backed by an international advisory board, Bpacks operates in the EU and the UK.

“With the global packaging market reaching €1 trillion [US$1.07 trillion], and the sustainable packaging sector valued at US$285.3 billion, Bpacks targets a very attractive and dynamic market opportunity,” states the start-up.

The firm aims to capture a slice of the “US$348.1 billion companies spend annually on plastic-based products,” which has spurred the creation of novel biomaterials and circular economy ventures, which offer biodegradable, compostable, returnable and even edible sustainable packaging solutions.

In other circular sector developments, Pléta is piloting a range of biodegradable food packaging, plates and utensils upcycled from a bountiful natural resource — fallen leaves from the Areca palm.

Meanwhile, innovators at Releaf Paper are transforming fallen leaves into paper. Packaging Insights recently caught up with the company’s CTO and co-founder, Valentyn Frechka, to discuss its future plans to scale up production and explore new sources of biowaste for fiber production.

By Benjamin Ferrer

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