Biobased Packaging: Certifications and the Greenwashing Dilemma

What is Biobased Packaging?

Sustainability has become a buzzword in recent years, prompting companies to rethink their products and packaging materials. One term that frequently surfaces in discussions about eco-friendly packaging is “biobased.” But what does this term actually mean, and how can you distinguish between genuinely biobased products and those that are merely riding the greenwashing wave? In this article, we will delve into the concept of biobased packaging, explore different certifications, including the TÜV OK Biobased certification, and shed light on the greenwashing pitfalls to help you make informed choices for a more sustainable future.

Understanding “Biobased”

The term “biobased” refers to products and materials derived from renewable sources, primarily plants, and other biological organisms. These materials can include various biopolymers, such as cornstarch, sugarcane, or even algae. The core idea behind biobased packaging is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, lower carbon emissions, and minimize the environmental footprint of packaging materials.

However, it’s crucial to understand that the term “biobased” does not necessarily indicate the biobased content of a product. Some products labeled as biobased may contain as little as 20% biobased material, with the remainder being derived from fossil fuels. Additionally, having biobased content doesn’t guarantee that the end of life for these materials is better than their fossil-derived equivalents. For example, materials like bioPE, bioPP, and bioPET have similar end-of-life impacts as their fossil-derived counterparts.

Key Certifications for Biobased Products

What Certifications Validate Biobased Claims?

  • USDA Certified Biobased Product Label: In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a Certified Biobased Product label. Products bearing this label have been verified to contain a certain percentage of biobased content. It provides a clear indicator of a product’s biobased authenticity.
  • EN 16785-1 (ASTM D6866): The European standard EN 16785-1, also known as ASTM D6866 in the United States, measures the biobased content of a product as a percentage of total organic carbon. Products meeting this standard have been thoroughly tested and validated for their biobased claims.
  • BioPreferred Program: The BioPreferred Program by the USDA maintains a comprehensive database of biobased products, allowing consumers and businesses to identify and source genuine biobased materials easily.
  • TÜV OK Biobased Certification: TÜV OK Biobased is another certification that verifies the biobased content of products. It is recognized internationally and provides an additional layer of assurance regarding a product’s biobased claims.

The Greenwashing Challenge

How Can Greenwashing Impact Biobased Packaging?

While biobased packaging holds tremendous promise for reducing the environmental impact of packaging materials, it is not immune to greenwashing – the practice of misleading consumers by exaggerating or misrepresenting a product’s environmental benefits. Here are some ways in which greenwashing can occur in the context of biobased packaging:

  • Partial Biobased Claims: Some companies label their products as “biobased” even if only a small fraction of the materials used in the product are derived from renewable sources. This can create a misleading impression of a product’s sustainability.
  • Exaggerated Environmental Benefits: Companies may overstate the environmental benefits of their biobased products, implying that they are entirely eco-friendly when, in reality, they still have significant environmental impacts.
  • Lack of Transparency: Insufficient transparency about the sourcing and production processes of biobased materials can make it challenging for consumers to verify the legitimacy of claims.

Making Informed Choices

How to Choose Truly Sustainable Packaging?

Biobased packaging holds great promise in the quest for more sustainable and eco-friendly materials. However, to make truly informed choices and avoid falling prey to greenwashing, it’s essential to look beyond the “biobased” label and consider certifications such as TÜV OK Biobased, as well as transparency in sourcing and production. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that biobased content does not necessarily equate to better end-of-life outcomes. For example, materials like bioPE, bioPP, and bioPET have similar end-of-life impacts as their fossil-derived equivalents.

As consumers, we have the power to encourage responsible practices in the industry by supporting companies that prioritize authenticity and transparency in their sustainability claims. By doing so, we can promote the development of genuinely green and eco-conscious packaging solutions, moving us one step closer to a more sustainable future.

How can my business transition to biobased packaging ?

By prioritizing sustainable packaging solutions and adopting a circular economy approach, businesses can not only reduce their waste footprint but also meet the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products. Visit our marketplace to explore our range of sustainable packaging options and consultancy services tailored to your industry. Refer to our Source Green Whitepaper for comprehensive solutions to transition your business to plastic-free and sustainable packaging alternatives.

Contact to audit your packaging and explore sustainable alternatives. We provide expert sustainable packaging consulting services for companies of all sizes and industries. Additionally, we offer comprehensive market research services, deal due diligence for investment funds, market overviews, and research reports. Our team can also assist with thought leadership, community engagement, corporate workshops, keynote and panel speaking, expert opinions for media, and innovation sourcing through startup scouting. Partner with us to elevate your sustainability strategy and drive impactful change.

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