The world is currently choked with plastics: eight million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year1, and if this trend continues, an estimated 12 billion tons of plastic waste will be present in the environment by 20502.
One of the main culprits in producing plastic waste is the food packaging industry. After their initial use, plastic water bottles, food containers and utensils find their way into the environment, plaguing wildlife and their ecosystems during a life cycle of up to 1,000 years before decomposition3.
This means that sea life is either trapped by plastic netting and fishing line, or consuming plastic bags and small pieces of broken up plastics. It also means that woodlands and other natural spaces are congested with plastic bags, tarps and bottles that decrease the quality of life for animals and plants that depend on the health of their local ecosystem to survive. Luckily, food and beverage (F&B) companies and the packaging industry as a whole have taken notice, and are taking steps to correct this plastic impediment.
In response to the negative impact that plastic waste has on the environment, F&B companies are starting to change their approach to plastic bottles, food grade tape and dog food packaging. As F&B packaging begins to move away from plastics, eco-friendly food packaging options, which are made from biodegradable materials, has started to become an industry-wide trend. Sustainable food packaging will increase the use of eco-friendly glue and ultimately help the industry reduce their negative footprint.
What Is Eco-Friendly Glue?
One type of eco-friendly glue is animal glue. Most animal glues are FDA compliant adhesives that are intended for indirect food contact, meaning they’re safe to use in packaging that houses food until it’s ready to be prepared and consumed. There are also FDA approved eco-friendly glues intended for direct food contact which are safe for human consumption; these glues are subject to a different set of FDA standards. It’s important to understand the difference between the types of eco-friendly glues and adhesives and how they’re used in packaging to understand the effect they’ll have on the environment.
The adhesives used for direct food contact are often pressure-sensitive glues; they require different levels of pressure to adhere and bond. By making bands and tapes with pressure-sensitive adhesives— say to secure a bunch of bananas for transport and eventual display—bonds aren’t formed until a tape has adequate pressure applied where the adhesive is present. These glues are commonly referred to as food safe or food grade glues.
Regardless of the type, eco-friendly glues are used in sustainable packing because of one crucial factor: they’re biodegradable, meaning that they’re able to decompose naturally in the wild, usually with minimal impact before and after production.
How Does Eco-Friendly Glue Benefit the Environment?
Eco-friendly glue is a crucial component to any sustainable packaging because of its ability to be naturally processed by bacteria, fungi and other natural decomposers in nature. A plastic bottle or piece of shrink wrap are more difficult for bacteria and fungus to breakdown; they can take hundreds of years to biodegrade due to their hydrocarbons which are derived from natural gas, coal and oil.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, sustainable packaging is typically made with cellulose or other plant-based byproducts which are more easily processed by bacteria and fungi. Some sustainable packaging is made from recyclable materials that are processed and re-purposed, such as cardboard and forms of recyclable plastics, which keep them out of the environment and in the packaging life cycle instead. Eco-friendly glues benefit the environment in the following ways:
- Recyclable & Reusable
- Made With Natural Ingredients
- Easily Biodegradable
Most animal glue is made with recycled soft gel netting, or gelatin, which results in a natural protein-based adhesive. The resulting glue is able to be recycled easily for use in further recyclable packaging through hydro-pulping, which pulps the glue in a water-based process.
The fact that most animal and eco-friendly glues are made from naturally occurring ingredients like sugar, starch, polyols and salt, which are all water soluble, means they’re great for use in sustainable packaging. Some glues used in biodegradable packaging are able to easily decompose if they find their way into the environment as well. By allowing eco-friendly glue to be recycled, reused or biodegraded naturally, is a huge win for the health of the planet and all life on it.
Bringing It All Together
Eco-friendly glues are the strong bond that will bring sustainable and biodegradable packaging into the forefront. As plastics are continually phased out due to their negative, long-term impacts on the environment, biodegradable and sustainable packaging will continue to be refined with eco-friendly glues and adhesives. Eco-friendly glue’s ability to be recycled or decomposed will create a positive effect on the environment and for the plants and animals that inhabit it.
Not all eco-friendly glue is created equal however, some use harmful fillers or other additives that negate the positive environmental effect that they would otherwise have when coupled with biodegradable and sustainable materials.
If you need an eco-friendly glue solution, contact the most dependable eco-friendly glue producer in the industry since 1926.
- Fact Sheet: Plastics In The Ocean, Earth Day Network
- Seven Charts That Explain The Plastic Pollution Problem, BBC
- How Long Does It Take Garbage To Decompose?, The Balance Small Business