Posted 16 Auguste 2011, by Anne Marie Mohan, Greener Package (Summit Media Group), greenerpackage.com
Biosphere Industries provides closed-loop single-use food packaging systems that are said to have minimal to no impact on the earth’s natural life cycles. In developing the technology, a major priority for the company was to use yearly grown raw materials that would have minimal impact on the environment. Other priorities related to defining the material. “We wanted to create a material that was primarily starch-based,” explains founder Elie Helou Jr. “Tapioca was chosen due to its allergen-free nature. We wanted it to be harvestable without killing the plant, so the supply would be annually renewable. We wanted it to be rigid, too, and have insulating properties so it could be a replacement for EPS or Styrofoam.
“Dual ovenability was also important. Finally, the material had to be certifiable as compostable, biodegradable, and salt water-biodegradable, by independent, recognized agencies.”
The resulting product, now marketed under the trade names Biosphere Bakeware and Blueware Serveware, uses a process that “bakes” the starch, rather than converting starch into plastic.
Ingredients in Biosphere’s “platform” technology include tapioca starch as the primary ingredient, and a lesser amount of grass fibers, and additives that are custom to each recipe, that add strength, flexibility, or color. The most critical aspect of the manufacturing process is ingredient batching, which must be highly accurate.
For its speed, repeatability, lead time for completion, and cost, Ingredient Masters Inc. was selected by Biosphere to supply a turnkey automated batching system that can produce one batch every 7 minutes.
After mixing, material is baked in molds. After baking, the Biosphere material is cool to the touch. Product can then be used in commercial food preparation at up to 420º F. The Biosphere material does not require a coating for low-moisture applications, although the firm’s R&D group has developed one—a cellulose-based formula for prepared meals and drinking cups. It is currently undergoing compostability testing. The only byproduct of the manufacturing process is steam.
Biosphere’s material has proved suitable for bakeware. Muffin trays and pie pans are excellent applications, as are bakeware products with unique features, or deep-draw requirements. The material will produce product with depths of 9 in. and greater.
The material is said to have exceptional insulative properties, and adequate short-term moisture-resistant properties as well, so it’s a natural for ice cream, says Helou. Biosphere has also invented the ability to manufacture threaded containers, and small cups with screw-on lids. By the end of 2011, there will also be an edible version of the product line for pets, the company says.
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