It were the European supermarkets – Sainsbury’s in the UK, Kaisers in Germany, or Hofer in Austria may be cited as pioneers – who first recognised the opportunities for bioplastics packaging. At the beginning of their market introduction the focus was on materials and products made from biodegradable polymers.
The range of bioplastic materials used in the European packaging market today is much broader than at the beginning. The polymers used for diverse applications can be biobased, biodegradable or both. The type of bioplastics material utilised depends on the application.
Packaging made from bioplastics can be employed for organically produced foods, for conventional fruit and vegetables, bread and bakery, beverage bottles or even hygiene and cosmetic products.
Functional properties are often crucial for the user decision. The environmental aspect or image concept and the very high consumer acceptance are additional selling points. Bioplastics each have a type-specific profile which sometimes differentiates them significantly from conventional plastics in terms of properties such as gloss, barrier effect, antistatic behaviour, printability and touch. For fresh, i.e. perishable foods, bioplastics offer packaging advantages. The most important is the possible increase in the shelf life of fresh products due to the specific material properties of some bioplastics materials.