Biofach 2018: Food (Non-) Packaging Innovation

If you care for food and the planet, these are three innovations you cannot miss.

Bulk for zero-waste

The European unpackaged heat wave was already obvious four years ago when I researched customer motivations for shopping at package-free stores. Back then there were around thirty fully-fledged package-free stores up and running. Today there will be three times that many and many more unaccounted for across Europe.

Comparing notes on bulk dispensing systems with Carlo Krauß, founder of Glasbin at Biofach

Munich's Ohne package-free grocery store is one of the best stores of its kind with their Glasbin, glass gravity bulk dispensers, tailored-made by local craftsmen. Glasbin has already made it to many stores across Germany, Austria, and Spain. Focusing on organic, local, and healthy ingredients, Ohne supermarket again proves my research results: it is the desire for health, hedonism and trust rather than environmental convictions that drives customers to these unconventional stores. Seeing Glasbin at Biofach cheered me up. Hopefully, glass bins will adorn many more urban food stores since shopping waste-less makes sense and is more elegant.

And, imagine the potential with all the world's stores and markets already (or perhaps we should say still) selling from bulk. Instead of serving their unpackaged goods in microten or paper single-use bags, I wonder if we could simple help them make a switch to bulk for zero-waste.

Nature's packaging preferred

Organic produce already sold unpackaged in supermarkets thanks to Eosta's innovation that earns awards. Photo from Biofach 2018

This is how Eosta, distributor of organic fruits and vegetables stands up to the plastic crisis. By using laser light to mark organic fresh fruits and veggies, Eosta has already saved nearly 2 million plastic packing units thanks to Natural Branding innovation that helps to differentiate organic from conventional produce without the need to pack it. The method uses no additional substances and has no effect on quality, taste or shelf life of the produce. The energy needed for a marking is less than 1% of the energy needed for a sticker. The first Natural Branding was adopted by a Swedish supermarket chain ICA at the beginning of 2017 and today, already more than ten Eosta's major customers have joined this quest.

“If you know that every day 3000 truckloads of plastic waste go into the ocean, and if you know that on a small island in the middle of the Pacific 40% of the albatrosses die from eating plastic, you realise we have a huge problem,”

Michael Wilde, Eosta

Thus, if we even make the purchase of these unpackaged goods trash-free (without single use bags), we have an edge. And let’s face it, with the addiction to over-packaging, moving from plastic into paper is not a solution. Unless, perhaps, that paper is made of grass pulp.

Cut grass not trees

At Biofach, the non-tree paper future was discussed broadly at Hempoint, a stand of a Czech hemp producer. Why?

"Making paper from trees is kind of a joke, because trees are made up of only 30% cellulose. The other 70% of the tree must be removed using toxic chemicals, until the cellulose can be formed into paper. The higher the percentage of cellulose in a plant, the better because fewer chemicals need to be used, and less work needs to be done before the paper can be made. Almost any plant in nature with a strong stalk is better suited to make paper than trees, especially hemp because it can be 85% cellulose."

Hemphasis

So, before we make hemphasis on what makes more sense and better economics, how about cutting grass instead of trees? Scheufelen made this idea tangible.

Biofach 2018 stand presents "guilt-free paper", produced from perennial grass locally harvested around the paper factory in the Schwäbische Alb Biosphere Region, Germany.

Grass paper, Scheufelen's newest product, revolutionizes paper production. Made with 50% fresh fibres from sun-dried grass, Scheufelen grass paper makes paper production with the least environmental impact. Unlike other globally available fresh fibre pulps, this material is processed and harvested locally from perennial grass plants.

"This stems from a dramatically reduced industrial process water requirement (less than 1 litre per ton of grass fibre pulp, compared to a few thousand litres per ton of wood fibre pulp), a massive energy saving of up to 80 % per ton of fresh fibre material and completely dispensing with the use of any process chemicals."

Scheufelen

Once again, the world we want is in our hands.

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