Comparing Eco-Friendly Pouches: Recyclable Pouches, Bio Degradable Pouches, Compostable Stand Up Pouches

In our work, we see that there is not a single eco-friendly packaging solution that is best for all applications. Each option has Pros and Con's. We want to inform the public and give a better understanding of recyclable pouches, bio-based pouches, and bio-degradable pouches.

Eco Friendly Stand Up Pouches and Pouch Packaging Industry

Eco-Friendly is a general framework. There are different packaging solutions that fit into eco-friendly packaging. Recyclable Packaging, bio- based packaging and compostable packaging are the most popular eco-friendly solutions.  In fact any one call their packaging eco-friendly and they will find a reason to justify. 

Recyclable Stand Up Pouches

Regular Stand-up pouches are made of composite such as foil, Pet, Kraft Paper etc., laminates because every layer of film serves a different purpose. When the empty stand-up pouch is collected by collectors they face the problem of classifying the pouches. Each layer of flexible film itself is recyclable but when we laminate them together they cannot be broken into pieces and used anymore. Very similar to a Mule that cannot reproduce

Today, we are moving towards a circular economy and using the same resource of our world over and over again has become more important. Now we have Monolithic finished stand up pouches made of layers all made of Polyethylene or Polypropylene.    

This kind of stand up pouches can be re-granulated and used in extruding new plastic pouches. Theoretically this can be done over and over again without losing its original properties.

Compostable Pouches or Biodegradable Stand Up Pouches

Compostable Pouches are the pouches that has to become a compost, degrades and become edible by insects or used in soil. The idea of pouch getting composted into soil and we don’t have to do about it makes us feel very good but it is not the whole truth.

Compostable pouches only compost in some certain temperature and humidity if not they remain as they are. If we are worried about marine litter it is very likely that a fish may eat it like a plastic get sick with it, later we eat them and we also get sick too.

Another problem with bio- degradable compostable stand-up pouches are, it is very difficult to certify them. Certification is a long process and in 3-6 months all has to be composted. Stand-up pouches are thicker films and the zipper on them makes them even more thicker which makes it almost impossible to get a compostable – bio degradable stand-up pouch certified. 

The likely scenario for the future is, the municipalities will only collect the compostable pouches if they are with certification logo and keep them in the right temperature and humidity. The rest will sit in the black bin and will be in landfills of burned.

The current suppliers of bio-degradable pouches don’t have certification and can only claim the films and the zipper used is made of compostable materials. They have no certification for bio degridation. It means that they will not be collected with other compostable stuff.

The compostable Stand-up pouches are very expensive because the raw material is very scare and expensive. Paying so much more for it and not making any good is a pity for all.

Bio Based Stand Up Pouches

Bio based means made of starch or other plants from soil. It means that when producing a bio-based pouch we use no or less fossil resources like oil. 

This is important because oil is a limited resource and we don’t want to finish it all and have none left for the future generations. This is what’s called sustainability. 

Another benefit of bio- based, sustainable stand up pouch is less of ecological area is used for oil wells. The starch for bio-based plastic is grown in controlled areas only.

Bio-Based plastic stand-up pouches had properties very similar to regular plastic. It means that the possibility of replacing the fossil based stand up pouches is wider. 

Many thinks that bio-based are also bio degradable (compostable) or recyclable. Not really. Once the starch turns into plastic it acts no different than fossil based plastic.

Recyclable Stand-up Pouches VS Bio-Based Stand-up pouches
and VS Compostable Stand-Up Pouches

In our work, we see that there is not a single eco-friendly packaging solution that is best for all applications. 

Organizations like Wrap and Ellen MacArthur foundation are promoting a circular economy for the future. From their perspective a solution is only viable if it is economical too. Here is why they favor recyclable packaging solutions.
- Base material is PE or pp and these products are already widely used in the market, there are many machines to process them.  
- The material is not very expensive because the supply is high.
- Re-granulating is easy and the technology is there already
- Some improvement is the technology may help a much higher percentage of producers produce recyclable packages
- Big percentage of the populations live in the cities and collections infrastructure already exists. The system will function with some adjustments.

Currently recyclable materials cannot be used in all kinds of packaging machinery. We see that when it is currently very hard to use Recyclable materials, like flat bottom box pouches, we can use bio-based materials as an eco-friendly alternative.

In our opinion compostable stand-up pouch is a very good idea but in reality it has a limited benefit for the nature. Compostable stand up pouches may be ideal where the waste collection cannot be effectively made like in camping areas or in less developed countries.