The Amcor and Plantic alliance would provide another biodegradable packaging alternative in a growing market for environmentally friendly products. Many analysts believe that biodegradable packaging has a bright future.
Growing environmental awareness and consumer power coupled with the rise in pre-packaged disposable meals means that food manufacturers and packagers are increasingly being targeted to reduce their products' impact on the environment.
In addition, a combination of pricing and retail uptake has led more and more processors to look at biodegradable natural polymer products as an alternative to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The sharp rise in the prices for petroleum, a major component of PET, has made PLA a competitive alternative.
Amcor and Plantic say they will spend and estimated two years in developing the new biodegradable material.
If successful the plastic has the " potential to change the mainstream confectionery packaging market and provide manufacturers and retailers with a cost effective, functional and environmentally-sustainable packaging solution", the companies stated in a press release.
Plantic will provide its patented material, a plastic created from plants that dissolves rapidly on contact with water.
Amcor will use the Plantic material to undertake trials of the resin in a commercial packaging film operation.
"This alliance combines our state-of-the-art forensic and development capability with Plantic's expertise in biodegradable product technology," stated Michele Allan, Amcor's general manager for research and technology. " It responds to demand from our customers for an improved biodegradable packaging solution and to consumer demand for environmentally friendly packaging in a broader range of products."
To date, Plantic materials have been used as a rigid plastic in confectionery and biscuit trays. Plantic's collaboration with Amcor aims to develop a thin and durable plastic for the flexible packaging of food and confectionery, such as chocolate bar wrappers and over wrap.
Plantic uses a starch-based resin developed from corn that degrades when in contact with water.
Plantic is also developing its portfolio of resins to include injection moulding grades. In the last three years, Plantic has completed commercial supply deals with Cadbury Schweppes, Lindt and Sprungli and Byron Bay Cookie Co. Plantic has expanded its Melbourne facilities and has offices in the UK and continental Europe.
Both Amcor and Plantic are based in Australia. Amcor is one of the world's largest providers of PET to the food and beverage industries. Last October the company announced it was investigating the potential for a new line of biodegradable bottles for the European markets.
The company had planned to make bottles using polylactic acid (PLA), a corn-based polymer produced by US-based NatureWorks. Cargill's NatureWorks is one the main mover behind the biodegradable packaging trend.
Others include Danish-based Danisco, which announced this year that it has produced a plasticiser from hardened castor oil and acetic acid. It is colourless, odorless and completely biodegradable.
A biodegradable plasticiser can be be used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging as a replacement for for phthalates, a chemical linked with infertility in men.
Another company competiting in the biodegradable packaging market is UK-based Stanelco. The company markets a natural, biodegradable food packaging based on starch, called Starpol 2000.
Germany-based BASF has also announced it will launch a biodegradable plastic based on renewable raw materials in a bid to meet what it believes will be a growing demand for environmentally-friendly packaging.
The company's Ecovio plastic is made up of 45 per cent PLA from NatureWorks. The other component is BASF's existing biodegradable plastic Ecoflex, which is derived from petrochemicals.
BASF forecasts that the world market for biodegradable plastics to grow by more than 20 per cent per year.