Developed by Alcan Packaging, the bio-based film is being positioned as a biodegradable alternative to polypropylene structures and laminated metallised plastic films. The launch, which follows three years of research, comes in a general climate of increased focus on environmentally-friendly packaging, as food and beverage companies strive to improve their overall 'green credentials'. According to Alcan Packaging, which is a unit of Rio Tinto Alcan, the new packaging is fully printable. The film, as well as the inks and adhesives used in its conversion, has been certified DIN EN 13432 by Dincertco, a European norm for compostable and biodegradable packaging, said Alcan. Composition The packaging, manufactured at the firm's plant in Dublin, Ireland, was introduced onto the market with the re-launch of UK cereal maker Jordans' Organic brand range. The packaging is made using two different certified compostable films, explained the firm. The outer layer is cellulose-derived from GM-free wood pulp, while the inner layer is derived from GM-free cornstarch. According to Alcan, the finished pack "provides the same look and feel as a heavy-weight plastic film alternative, with a glossy, printable surface and a tactile finish." The pack is biodegradable and suitable for industrial composting, it said. Product appeal According to Rachel Kerr, spokesperson at Jordans, "this laminate is ideal for food packaging as it offers both on-shelf appeal and barrier properties, ensuring product protection and integrity as well as food freshness and preservation". "This is an exciting development and will go some way to addressing the current concerns around packaging and its disposal. We look forward to seeing what the future holds." Market trend Over the past five years packaging suppliers have been introducing various forms of biodegradable materials to replace plastics and foams, as growing numbers of food processors want to make the switch to more environmentally-friendly packaging. These materials are made from a variety of plants, in the main corn, in response to projections that consumers and recycling regulations will drive demand for environmentally-friendly packaging. Some companies predict that the market will grow by about 20 per cent a year, and the products are an alternative to petroleum-based packaging such as the widely-used polyethylene terephthalate (PET). At the end of last year, The Instone Group launched a new subsidiary - New Ice - to develop and market a range of compostable food packaging, specifically for produce, meats and poultry products. The firm's potato starch formulation is designed to plastic and Styrofoam food container products. In October 2007, Cargill announced it was teaming up with Japan-based Teijin to produce polylactic acid (PLA). A similar alliance has been formed between DuPont and Plantic. Materials such as PLA and PHA are made from a variety of plants. To produce PLA manufacturers use a chemical polymerisation process to transform renewable raw materials such as corn into a biodegradable biopolymer. Meanwhile biodegradable polymers such as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), PHV and PHB are produced by the actions of genetically modified micro-organisms. Demand for bioplastics in Europe experienced its first boom last year, according to a survey by the European Bioplastics Association, which has about 70 members. Currently bioplastics account for less than one percent of the European plastics market. PLA is a plastic biopolymer, wholly derived from corn, which is compostable and biodegradable.