Why Switch to Potato Starch Wrapping?

For years, our default method of mailing magazines and direct mail catalogues has been to wrap in LDPE plastic. This has all changed as a result of Sir David Attenborough’s “BBC Blue Planet” and the increased public awareness of the damage single use plastics are doing to the environment.

As a result, we are all looking for environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic wrap. There are a number of alternatives but for the purposes of this blog, we focus solely on a potato starch-based alternative to LDPE wrapping.

ADM’s 100% biodegradable and 100% HOME compostable wrapping of choice is Bioplast 300 which contains potato starch, some coming as a by-product of potato chip and crisp manufacturing industry in Northern and Eastern Europe. Bioplast 300 is fully biodegradable and compostable according to EN 13432. It has also achieved the OK Compost HOME certification awarded by TÜV Austria.

About the author
Graham Prichard

Print Consultant

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So what are the benefits of using this potato starch wrapping?

Clearly, the most obvious advantage is the reduced reliance on LDPE plastic wrapping. There are no plasticisers or toxins in the starch-based wrapper and as a result, it is 100% biodegradable, fully compostable and should be disposed of in suitable composting conditions. It is therefore more environmentally friendly than its plastic alternatives. The potato starch wrap can be disposed of both in home composting bins, or where accepted by authorities, in food waste recycling or green bins. It is every bit as durable and can be printed on in just the same way as the plastic alternatives.

Starch-based wrap may have its own issues and critics but a lot is being done to minimise the downsides of using this fully compostable material. It is not necessarily the cheapest wrapping solution as the cost is more than double that of LDPE plastic but it is worth remembering that wrapping is only one part of total mailing costs – postage costs represent the lion’s share with print and personalisation costs also contributing to total costs.

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The starch-based wrap has a ‘milky’, opaque colouring and it is not entirely clear like the LDPE plastic alternative. This has provided a difficulty for Royal Mail as their scanners have not been able to read the mail marks through the plastic. As a result, potato starch wrapping does not yet qualify for the new Royal Mail Magazine Subscription service discounts which are aimed at publications.  One of the criteria for this service is that all items must be Mailmarked. Mailmark is a 2D barcode that Mailing Houses have to be certified by Royal Mail to use.  ADM has this certification and we are currently working with Royal Mail to increase the definition of the barcode and enable automation through Royal Mail.  Our latest trials have been approved by Royal Mail and we hope to share the results of the first mailings in the coming weeks.

As with any new product, it takes time to educate and change behaviour. More will be done by mailing houses such as ADM and our customers in 2019 to inform the public and Local Authorities as to the nature of the material and its handling or disposal. Pressure is being put on all Local Authorities to accept this potato starch polywrap in their green bins or as food waste and we expect to see more Local Authorities collecting the bioplastic wrapping in 2019.

A number of our large membership organisation customers such as National Trust and UNISON, have already made the switch for their direct mailing campaigns and have received much praise from their members for making the switch so promptly. Moving to a more environmentally friendly way of mailing is in everyone’s interests after all.