Home » Bpacks Unveils Bark-Based Biodegradable Bioplastics

Bpacks Unveils Bark-Based Biodegradable Bioplastics

by Kehinde Giwa
  • Bpacks, a sustainable packaging venture, has introduced the world’s first bark-derived biodegradable bioplastics.
  • Founded in 2022, the company operates in the UK and Belgrade, Serbia, with a focus on research and development led by materials scientists.
  • The innovative process combines bark, repurposed coffee grounds, and other bio-based materials to create versatile packaging materials.
  • Bpacks aims to revolutionise the packaging industry by offering eco-conscious solutions that can be easily integrated into existing production equipment, potentially extending the shelf life of perishable goods.

Bpacks, a pioneering sustainable packaging venture, has introduced the world’s inaugural bark-based biodegradable bioplastics, aimed to supplant conventional petroleum-based rigid plastics in applications ranging from fresh produce to cosmetics.

Established in 2022 by Mikhail Skalkin, Dr. Nikolay Semenov, and Lev Bolshakov, Bpacks boasts operational bases in both the UK and Belgrade, Serbia. 

Spearheading the company’s research and development endeavours are materials scientists Dr. Semenov and the newly appointed head of innovation, Dr. Aleksandra Nešić.

Their innovative process amalgamates bark sourced from timber production, repurposed coffee grounds, and an array of other bio-based materials to fashion versatile sheets and granules/pellets. 

These components empower packaging manufacturers to craft an assortment of sustainable materials, heralding a pivotal shift towards eco-conscious packaging solutions.

As it is currently filing patents, the company remains tight-lipped about its production process, but says it doesn’t involve solvents: “The production process starts with compounding, followed by the creation of pellets or sheets, and concludes with the casting of solid packaging, which takes place either by injection moulding or thermoforming.”

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The resulting biodegradable material can handle high-moisture products but “should fully decompose in moist soil within one to two months,” claims the company. “It is 100% home-compostable.”

According to Skalkin: “Traditional bio packaging often struggles to compete with its plastic counterparts in terms of pricing and integration complexity. Our bio-based plastic substitute can be manufactured using existing plastic production equipment, eliminating the need for plastic factories to purchase new equipment.

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“Moreover, our packaging is 100% bio-based, with up to 75% of materials sourced from production waste [such as bark and used coffee grounds],” noted Skalkin, who said annual bark production was estimated to be between 300 and 400 million m3.

‘The majority of bark ends up as waste. We are giving it a new life’

Currently, Bpacks head of innovation Dr. Aleksandra Nešić, told newsmen that most biodegradable bioplastics are made from agricultural feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, sugarcane or brewery residues to create materials such as polylactic acids (PLAs), or in some cases wood pulp from the paper industry to create cellulose-based products.

“In the rigid packaging industry, PLA is the most used, but cellulose based packaging is also coming back to the market because some products cannot be packed in PLA and for some products it is too expensive.

“Other [bioplastics] such as PBAT [Polybutylene Adipate Terephthalate from sugarcane or cornstarch] or PHAs [Polyhydroxyalkanoates made via microbial fermentation with various sugary feedstocks] are out there but in very low amounts.”

Bark, she said, “is a massively underutilised natural resource and it’s almost free as a raw material. Some of it is utilised for extracts because it has some interesting properties [anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, astringent, anti-ulcer, and wound-healing properties], although those extractions typically require high amounts of harmful chemicals or petroleum-based chemicals.

“But the majority ends up as waste. We are giving it a new life.”

According to Bolshakov: “There are plenty of bio-based packaging solutions out there but cost and scale is an issue and some of them face integration challenges [to fit into existing infrastructure for packaging materials production]. We’re introducing a new technology that integrates with current equipment. So if a manufacturing company wants to replace its plastic pellets, this can be done easily and seamlessly with our granules.

“Our lab has limited capacity but we can also licence our technology [to manufacture the granules] to plastic packaging companies. It doesn’t require expensive bespoke equipment, so existing production equipment can be used.”

According to Bolshakov, the properties of the material can be customised by adjusting both the proportions of ingredients within the 100% bio-based formulation and by modifying process parameters. 

He noted that the company has relied on the founders’ capital and a select group of private investors for funding thus far.

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Bolshakov emphasised that Bpacks’ packaging is particularly well-suited for preserving fruits, vegetables, and meats, as internal assessments indicate it possesses antimicrobial attributes capable of extending shelf life. He further mentioned ongoing validation of these findings through testing conducted at independent third-party laboratories.

He added: “The increase in shelf-life is a key advantage to potential customers, plus we think we can be competitive with petroleum-based products.”

Bpacks utilises a blend of bark sourced from timber production, repurposed coffee grounds, and other bio-based materials to produce pellets suitable for packaging manufacturers, enabling the creation of a diverse range of biodegradable rigid packaging materials.

According to research conducted by Precedence Research, bioplastics currently constitute less than 1% of the global plastics market. 

However, there is anticipated significant growth in this sector in the forthcoming years, driven by mounting pressure on companies to diminish their carbon footprint and adhere to legislative mandates. 

In 2021, the global bioplastics market was valued at $11.2 billion, with projections indicating a surge to $46.1 billion by 2030.

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