– The basis of raw materials for biopackages is corn starch, which is obtained from the leaves of the plant, – says the chief technologist of the manufacturing enterprise Valentin Komel. And it shows two flasks: one contains polyethylene granules, which is made on the basis of refined gas and oil products, and the other contains natural corn granules. Supplier – an Italian company – a world leader in the production of raw materials from organic materials.
Looking at the package, I note: at first glance, it is no different from a plastic one. Only the smell is pronounced – caramel, and the shade is bodily. But manufacturers note an important advantage – such packaging decomposes in a landfill along with food and organic waste in a year and a half. And under certain conditions for industrial composting (the process of creating fertilizer) – almost twice as fast. They draw attention to the green badge on the package with the words “OK compost”. Unfortunately, in our country there is no such possibility yet. But this is work for the future.
– Corn bags are suitable for composting, both industrial and domestic. The pellet manufacturer guarantees that in a compost environment, within 180 days, at least 90% of the material will decompose into carbon dioxide, biomass and water, – the interlocutor clarifies. – It is planned that in some retail chains in Minsk such packages will appear this week, and then throughout the country. The cost, however, will be higher than polyethylene, but lower than paper — about 30—40 kopecks (the price is determined by the retailer).
Valentin Komel invites you to a tour of the enterprise. First of all, we go to the extrusion workshop, where the story of the appearance of bags begins. The specialist tells how a film is obtained from raw materials and through a system of rollers it enters the device, where it is wound into a roll, each weighing about 300-400 kilograms:
– Today, after a small modernization, any equipment in our company can produce corn starch film (for about 20 years the company has specialized in the production of plastic packaging. – Approx. Auth.).
Why not potato? Valentin Vladimirovich says that there is such an opportunity too. But so far, the company has opted for corn raw materials. Packages from it are obtained with a pleasant body shade and have a caramel smell.
Do they compete with polyethylene in terms of strength? This is perhaps one of the main questions that consumers will be concerned about. To answer it, we go to the laboratory, where the products are tested on a special machine for compliance with GOST. Conclusion: withstands with a margin.
Then we go to the printing shop, where a drawing is applied to the film. Then to the machines where the bags are cut. The chief technologist pays attention to the scraps – they are collected separately, and then they also go into action – they turn first into granules, and then back into bags. For such an opportunity, even the processing shop was specially updated. I also notice the usual polyethylene “T-shirts” in the big trunks.
– Not every manufacturer can afford it today, but we have set a goal to make waste-free production, – Valentin Vladimirovich comments.
Already this summer, the company is going to launch a project that will help motivate consumers, you and me, to hand over old bags (plastic or corn – it doesn’t matter) for recycling. It is planned to collect them directly in retail chains.
We go outside through the finished goods warehouse. So far, corn packages are in the minority here … The release has just started. But the company assures that if there is demand, the existing equipment can be used to produce about 30 million corn T-shirts, 170 million packaging bags and 15 million garbage bags per month – about 250 million pieces in total. Such volumes are able to cover the need for packaging of all Belarusians. This will require about 400 tons of corn starch.
– This, of course, is not a “Solomon” solution to the problem of plastic pollution of the planet. You need to approach her in a complex, – Maksim Meleshko, director of a group of companies that has launched the production of corn packaging in Belarus, notes that, in his opinion, the most important thing is to change consumer habits. People should be taught to use as little packaging as possible, and the one we use should be collected and sent for recycling. In turn, the company offers a variety of types of packaging, including reusable and recycled ones. Corn bags in this row are perhaps the solution for the transition period.