Local bio-based biodegradable plastic now comparably priced with petroleum-based competitors

AgInnovation Ontario - Evlon biodegradable film - webAn environmentally friendly packaging film made in rural Ontario is now cost-competitive with traditional, petroleum-based plastic competitors.

That means economics may no longer have to be a driving factor when companies are making packaging decisions.

Evlon, a biodegradable plastic film, used to be 30 to 40 per cent more expensive than conventional films that use petroleum-based ingredients.

Its key ingredient, Ingeo, a naturally advanced material made with renewable plant starches that include corn, emits less greenhouse gas and requires less energy to produce than all other commonly used petroleum-based plastics.

Now, productivity upgrades in the BI-AX International processing plant have resulted in price reductions that the company is hoping will make Evlon, which has been on the market for about a decade, more attractive in the market.

“We started to market the film about 10 years ago and at the time felt it would really take off, but it was difficult to get customers to pay the higher cost of a biodegradable product,” says Tom Inglis, BI-AX’s General Manager. “We’ve made some changes in our plant that mean we’ve been able to drop the price, so we’re hoping this will get us out of the gate.”

AgInnovation Ontario - Evlon plant in Tiverton Ontario - web

Evlon plant in Tiverton, Ontario

Evlon is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) as a packaging material that can disintegrate and biodegrade quickly and safely – it reverts to carbon dioxide and water in less than 90 days – when professionally composted.

The resulting compost can be safely used in parks and roadway beautification, around schools, hospitals, and company campuses, for community gardens, and made available to consumers.

With Evlon, plant starch is converted to sugar, and then fermented to form lactic acid. Using heat, the lactic acid is converted into lactide molecules, which are then polymerized to form polylactide (PLA).

It’s the PLA that BI-AX turns into the biodegradable packaging film that can be used on everything from health food and produce wrappers, gift bags, and candy wrappers to snack food bags, DVD and CD wraps, rigid cosmetics containers, labels, and folding cartons.

“Evlon can be used for many things, but it does have a tendency to find its way into food applications, which is a large part of the market,” says Inglis, adding that some exciting new snack food projects are in the works that should be announced shortly.

Although they do export to Europe, most of BI-AX’s international market for Evlon is in the United States.

Historically, U.S customers have been less focused on environmental benefits of packaging than those in Canada, but that is beginning to change, says Inglis, which is encouraging for the company’s future.

Depending on the time of year, BI-AX employs anywhere from 25 to approximately 70 people at its two Ontario facilities, one in Tiverton and one in Wingham, where Inglis grew up and where his brother David originally started the company.