Zumtobel explores potato packaging
THE ZUMTOBEL Group of lighting companies has been exploring potato starch as a possible source of composable packaging.
The company, whose brands include Zumtobel, Thorn and Tridonic, is trialling a material which looks like an ordinary reinforced cardboard carton but is, in fact, constructed from potatoes.
The material works with the group’s strategy of working to implement packaging across the range to minimise its negative environmental impact. It wants biological packaging brand that consists entirely of natural raw materials and that is 100 per cent recyclable and compostable.
This reduces both food waste and means packaging biodegrades quickly and efficiently, says Zumtobel.
The move is part of the group’s wider commitment to sustainability which recently saw them awarded Gold EcoVadis status.
‘Potato plastic consists of only potato starch and water,’ says scientist Pontus Törnqvist of Lund University in Sweden. ‘The technical part of this product is the production of the material. First, the exact amount of both ingredients are mixed together, and then heated until the fluid thickens.
‘It is then poured into moulds and exposed to heat until is a dry compact piece.
‘Regarding of how much fluid is poured into a mould, the material can either become a thick, tough piece, or a thin film.
‘This material is a kind of thermoplastic, which means that it can be moulded under compression when it is exposed to heat and moisture. T
;his opens up for many design possibilities, regarding everything from product selection to detailed patterns on the surface of the material. Since no extreme heat is needed, the moulds can be made of plastic.
‘This decreases the cost significantly compared to if the moulds would be made of metal.’
Törnqvist was recently a recipient of a presigious James Dyson Award for his research work on potato starch products, including cutlery.