Takeaways from SUSTPACK15, part 1: material science

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 15, 2015 2:41:00 PM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

I have returned from SUSTPACK15 in Orlando and feel equiped to provide a snap shot of the state of the sustainable packaging industry. My next several posts will summarize some key takeaways from the conference. 

Having been somewhat absent from the sustainable packaging networking space following Dordan's withdrawal from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, it was absolutely fantastic being reuinited with so many old friends. It seriously felt like a reuinion. Though there are some new faces, I was shocked by how many of the same people continue to participate in the sustainable packaging conference circuit; I suppose that speaks to the tenacity of the movement.

Here are some photos I snapped from the welcoming reception.


From left, representatives from Newell Rubermaid, Nike, UPS, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition  


Aveda & Estee Lauder, recipients of 2015 Trashie Package Award


Smither's PIRA International

The conference had some really great presentations. On the supplier/materials innovation side, I particularly enjoyed the presentations from Mango Materials and Loliware. 

Mango Materials produces biodegradable plastics from methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas eight times more detrimental to the ozone layer then carbon dioxide. All landfills produce methane gas; it is one of the byproducs of decomposition and wastewater treatment. Often times, this methane is captured and either burned on site or repurposed as electricity, though not all landfills do this. The conversion of methane gas to electricity requires energy.

Unlike other biodegradable plastics like PLA that use agricultural byproducts as feedstock, Mango Material's uses methane gas as the feedstock. The company is literally using a waste product as the feedstock for bioplastic as opposed to using a resource-intensive material like corn for material production. And the process of producing bioplastics from methane gas requires less energy than producing electricity from methane gas. 

Mango's methane-based bioplastic is PHA, which Dordan has sampled in its Bio Resin Show N Tell, though from a different supplier. Mango's PHA is significantly cheaper then the PHA we sampled, priced at about $1.10/lbs. This is because the waste feedstock and the process of converting methane to PHA is less complex the the process of converting plant-derived sugar, according to company CEO and Founder Molly Morse. 

So here you have a waste product contributing to global warming captured and converted into a biodegradable plastic that is cheaper than other biodegradable plastics because the process of conversion is more simplistic and the feedstock not resource intensive. 

Sounds radical. And this company was funded by Stanford with the Founder/CEO graduating from its Engineers for a Sustainable World program. 

Next up, Loliware, a supplier of biodegradable edible cups. 

Made from a plant-based gelatin, these edible cups are flavored to compliment different beverages. Flavors include citrus, Macha green tea, tart cherry and vanilla.  



Loliware Biodegr[edible] Cups

Look out for my video interview with Co-Founder and Co-CEO Chelsea Briganti 


Photo includes representatives from Packaging Digest, Replenish, Loliware, Mango Materials

I was also very engaged with the Ocean Conservancy's presentation on the state of ocean debris. I am currently reviewing the agency's presentation, which describes how developing countries contribute the most substantially to ocean debris "leakage." This will be the focus of my next article for Packaging Digest. 

And here is yours truly, posing with my Press badge; it was awesome playing video interviewer and reporter for Packaging Digest at the conference and I am excited to share my next article on trends in ocean debris with you. 

Look out for more takeaways from SUSTPACK15 in blog posts coming soon!