Plantic Technologies Limited (Australia), manufacturer of starch-based polymers for packaging and other applications, has revealed that every tonne of Plantic® sheet (based on high-amylose corn starch) purchased in place of petrochemical polymers will save up to 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide (the average annual emissions of a compact car) and enough energy to power 2.5 average Australian homes. This significant announcement comes as a result of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Plantic® biodegradable plastic packaging system compared with alternative polymers carried out by RMIT University, Melbourne. Plantic's novel polymer manufacturing technology is based on the use of high-amylose corn starch, a material derived from annual harvesting of specialised non-GM (hybrid) corn. As per the company, the materials are inherently antistatic, offer excellent gas taint and odour barriers and are sealable, printable and laser etchable. Plantic® materials have a renewable bio-content of approximately 85%. In addition to being renewably sourced, Plantic® materials are biodegradable, home compostable, water dispersible and compostable to European (EN 13432) and American (ASTM 6400) standards.
The functional unit used for the purpose of this study is the production and disposal of 1000 retail trays used to package chocolates, each 12g in weight. According to the LCA, when compared to other conventional polymers used in similar tray applications, less than half the energy is required to produce the equivalent number of Plantic® trays. Additionally, Plantic® materials are estimated to have approximately 40-70% less impact on global warming than various petrochemical polymers. With Easter fast approaching, it is estimated that Easter eggs generate about 3000 tons of waste each year. If all of these eggs were packaged in Plantic® material, enough energy would be saved to power 350,000 homes for the Easter period, which is effectively all of the houses in Canberra. It would also save enough carbon to take 140,000 cars off the road in that period.