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The Problems With Biodegradable Stand Up Pouches

Biodegradable flexible packagingWe are often asked for biodegradable stand up pouches where the client has confused the terms biodegradable with recyclable.  We understand this can be confusing as both of these terms have been used together so often people assume they mean the same thing.  They don't.  For something to biodegrade it needs to break down in air and sunlight over time.  Stand up pouches are made for a few specific reasons, one so they protect the contents inside from moisture and vapor and odor, etc, and two so they can stand effectively on a store shelf.  In order to accomplish this, the film used must be strong and stable and durable.  The film used for stand up pouches, printed or plain, is laminated film.  This lamination provides strength while at the same time providing the barrier properties to protect what is inside the pouch. 

When determining the best packaging for your products, there are many factors to consider.  The nature of your product (liquid, solid, powder?), the requisite shelf life (immediate sale and use or months on the shelf or in the garage?), and whether you prefer bags, cans, canisters, or boxes, are all factors that need to be addressed.  Given the options available, it's not an easy decision to make.  We don't have all the answers, but when it comes to stand up pouches, we know a thing or two.   As an industry leader, we know what it takes to make the best recyclable stand up pouches.  Here's what you need to look for:  

Are they recyclable Seems obvious, doesn't it?  But it really isn't.  There's actually a good deal of misinformation out there about what constitutes environmentally sound packaging.  Biodegradable packaging, while perhaps the most responsible concept, isn't really an option, simply because the packaging needs to last (which is counter to the whole notion of something being biologically degradable).  The next best option is packaging that is actually recyclable, capable of being broken down after use into materials suitable for creating new products.  Here's what we think you should look for: 

Versatility.  If your products are varied or you offer them in multiple sizes/weights/quantities, your stand up pouches should be versatile enough to accommodate your needs.  The benefit is twofold: 

  1. You don't need to deal with more than one vendor.
  2. Your product line maintains a uniform appearance in stores, one which consumers will come to identify with your brand (and we all know how important solid brand identification is!). 

Flexibility.  In addition to being flexible in a figurative sense (see Versatility above)  your stand up pouches should also be structurally flexible.  With a barrier made of multiple layers of scientifically-formulated film, stand up pouches are soft-sided enough so that they can be transported, displayed, and stored quite easily. 

Strength.  The optimal stand up pouch is strong, durable, and puncture resistant.  It stands up to the rigors of transport, handling by the retailer, and storage.  You'd also want the structure to hold it's shape as well. 

Convenience.  The ideal recyclable pouch has features that make it user-friendly.  Options such as tear notches for easy opening, pour spouts and resealable caps for liquids, and zip lock closures, are among the features that render a good stand up pouch the best recyclable stand up pouch for you.  

Other eco-friendly characteristics.  In addition to whether your stand up pouch alternative is recyclable, there are other factors that impact whether the package is truly environmentally responsible:

  • Is manufacture of the pouch sensitive to the use of resources?  For example, how much material goes into making each pouch or how much energy is required to produce that pouch versus other types of packaging (glass bottle, metal tin, plastic tub, etc).  Studies have shown that the best way to help our environment is to reduce the amount of packaging being used and ultimately sent to a landfill (such as transition from a rigid or semi rigid package to something using far less plastic like a stand up pouch).  Again, using less material means the packaging weighs less and, therefore, requires less fuel to produce, transport, and store per unit than other choices.
  • Not all pouches are created equal.  The best stand up pouch requires no additional material to make an inner liner or outer packaging which eliminates both the cost and use of energy normally associated with production of that extra packaging.  
  • Is the manufacture of the pouch energy-efficient?  Are production processes streamlined?  
  • Is the packaging tough enough to survive all stages of the production process without a high degree of failure?
  • What happens to your packaging if it doesn't get recycled?  While not biodegradable, a properly designed stand up pouch made of the minimal amount of material necessary will take up less space and volume in a landfill, OR it can be ground up and used to make other types of plastic products. 

There's no such thing as a perfect package, of course.  However, if you take these important factors into consideration, you're almost certainly going to end up with the best stand up recyclable pouches available for your products.  

Topics: Custom Printed Flexible Packaging

David Marinac

Written by David Marinac

What LEGO’s Sustainable Packaging Teaches Us About Overseas Innovation

Since 1949, children across the globe have fawned over tiny, plastic, interlocking bricks.

LEGOs are a not only a classic toy but a staple in many households. Many kids beg their parents to take them to the majestic LEGOLAND, an amusement park where all their wishes and dreams could come true.

Why Nestlé, Unilever & PepsiCo are Banning Oxo-degradable Plastic Packaging

Originally marketed as an eco-friendly packaging material, new evidence regarding the potentially negative impact of oxo-degradable plastics has led a number of companies and governments to restrict their use.

More than 150 companies and global organizations, including Nestlé, Unilever and PepsiCo, have recently endorsed a total ban on the material in light of its potentially negative environmental impact.

Oxo-degradable plastic packaging, which includes select plastic pouch bags, is often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution because it claims to degrade into harmless residues within a period ranging from a few months to several years. However, oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues, but instead, fragment into tiny shards of plastic that actually contribute to plastic pollution.

Often, consumers think that because a material is biodegradable, it can be composted or even littered on the ground, because, it is thought, the material will break down into nothing over time. This actually ends up leading to an increase in pollution, since consumers don’t end up recycling or repurposing the material, and misconceptions about how the plastic will degrade leads them to end up putting it back into landfills.

What is important to note in this case is that although oxo-degradable plastics are biodegradable, being biodegradable does not necessarily mean that a material is eco-friendly. Although these plastics do break down over time, the tiny pieces they break down into are still plastics that contribute to pollution — they do not degrade into nothing or into another usable substance.

For companies looking to make the switch to sustainable packaging, it is important to consider that sustainable packaging does not necessarily mean biodegradable packaging, and vice versa.

Why New FDA Guidelines Could Bring Big Changes to Pet Food Packaging

Today’s consumers are demanding transparency and accountability from all types of products, and pet food is no exception.

Greater scrutiny over pet food ingredients, and an increasing demand for responsibility, sustainability and complete transparency from pet food manufacturers is driving change within the industry. As the consumer demand for “clean” pet food labeling evolves as a major topic within the world of pet packaging, FDA guidelines are shifting.

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