Plastic has its benefits, but also its challenges. It is outstanding in terms of application, weight, quality, and hygiene which is especially important for products within medical technology. We are convinced that plastic has its place in our modern society, though with a different approach than today. At present, there is a large focus on shifting from fossil-based to renewable plastic. In most cases, it generates a smaller carbon footprint, but producers must assess the whole life cycle of the materials in their decision-making regarding the shift.
All kinds of biomass, such as food waste, algae and agricultural by-products, can be converted into monomers, which is the building blocks of polymer, i.e., plastic. When introducing our sustainable product range, we chose renewable polyethene sourced from sugar cane, which has a near negligible footprint. Late 2020, we began using a mass balance approach based on adding tall oil or other biomass polymers into the mix during polymer production. The ISCC Certificate guarantee full traceability of the material and its sources, throughout the value chain. Mass balance is one important factor for reaching our goal to become CO₂ neutral in products and packaging by 2022.
Other approaches include using recycled plastic, which is useful in many cases, for example, in packaging materials, but it can be problematic in products for oral use. Strict regulations dictate 100% control over product contents by the manufacturer, especially regarding plastic that comes into contact with food or is used in the mouth. If the recycled plastic comes from different sources, it may contain hazardous chemicals. A varying standard of plastic can also affect product quality which, of course, is unacceptable. In the future, these obstacles can be overcome through chemical recycling.
Biodegradable plastic can either be biobased or made from fossil matter. It can be converted to organic matter in weeks; however, this takes place through a controlled, industrial process under the right conditions. Decomposition in nature or a home compost heap may take decades, if it happens at all. Biodegradable plastic is often used in certain kinds of food packaging, or for agricultural and medical use (for example, sutures and capsules). Biodegradable plastic is not suitable for TePe’s products.