Nelipot spatula and why the step towards bioplastics?
Last fall we started adding spatulas or teaspoons to Nelipot deodorant creams for easier application, as many of our customers approached us with this request. The development of the spatula began last spring when we began to develop its final image with help of a designer. Sticking to the theme of Nelipot wings, it seemed most appropriate that the spatula continues this story, leaving you with one wing in each bag.
Choosing the right material for the spoon
We were faced with a more difficult task when choosing the right material. We knew we wanted to move in the direction of biodegradable materials, but cardboard materials were not suitable due to microbiological integrity when reused in humid environments and the durability of such a spoon; for similar reasons, we also had to cross off wooden materials.
Then we thought about bioplastics. We experimented with it in our home garage with my father about a year ago, as its composition for home experiments is very simple and something almost everyone has at home (vinegar, starch, water and glycerin), to check its stability and degradability, which has proven to be very promising indeed.
Of course it was necessary to find the right manufacturer and find a suitable material from biodegradable polymers for wider use. We were fortunate enough to find a Slovenian company that was willing to explore this area with us and we started a collaboration that has produced great results. Nelipot spatulas have been received really well.
Bioplastics, what’s the deal with that again?
The spoons are made of OK COMPOST certified bioplastics! As explained by Dr Kržan(1), “bioplastics combines plastic properties, enables efficient processing and usability of products, and is biodegradable at the same time. Biodegradation denotes the process of degradation of a polymeric material under the influence of biotic (living) factors. The process is based on organisms, mainly microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, algae) that recognize the polymer as a source of organic components (e.g. simple saccharides, amino acids, etc.) and of the energy they need to survive. The polymer reacts chemically under the influence of cellular or extracellular enzymes, thereby splitting the polymer chain. The process can take place under the influence of many different enzymes, gradually leading to ever smaller molecules. These then enter into metabolic processes that take place inside the cells and are, as energy is being released, converted into water, carbon dioxide, bio-mass and other basic products of biological conversion. The characteristic of these degradation products is that they are non-toxic and regularly found in nature as well as in living organisms. The artificial material – plastic is thus transformed into natural ingredients. The process of converting an organic substance – a polymer – into inorganic forms – e.g. carbon dioxide – is called mineralization.
/…/ In the process of decomposition, fragmentation takes place first, during which the material is mechanically decomposed (fragmented) by the influence of living or non-living factors due to the chemical decomposition of the polymer, and in the next stage, the decay products are mineralized under the influence of microorganisms. The second phase is a necessary step in the process of biodegradation, as this is where the metabolism of partially decomposed polymers (fragments) into the final products takes place. There are also known examples of materials (oxo-degradable materials) that rapidly fragment under the influence of heat and UV light, but their mineralization process is very slow. In this case, relatively inert microparticles of plastic, which are very poorly susceptible to biodegradation, and are as such a major problem for nature and animals (the problem of microplastics) remain there for a long time.
It is important to separate biodegradable and compostable plastics, the latter being a subset of the former. Compostable plastics are biodegradable under certain conditions and in a relatively short time frame within the composting process. However, biodegradable plastics are not necessarily compostable since biodegradation can take longer than required for composting.
OK COMPOST! certified materials are certified biodegradable in an industrial decomposting plant. Together with the collected bio-waste, they are usually treated aerobically through composting. Compostable plastics are adapted to industrial composting, which differs from domestic composting in higher temperature and therefore faster decomposition in the compost pile. If biodegradable plastics are not collected together with organic waste and treated in a mixed waste stream, then biodegradability is more difficult to exploit. Organic waste collection is thus crucial for their complete, nature-friendly recovery.
So why bioplastics?
We turn to bioplastics to offer nature the least harmful form of packaging, which meets the cosmetic standards at the same time. We plan to do more research in this direction in the future.
(1) Kržan, Andrej. 2012. Biorazgradljivi polimeri in plastika. Dostopno preko sledeče povezave.