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Eosta: biodegradable plastic packaging - 30 million a year

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Patrick Gerritsen from Natura, the packaging manufacturer, is pleased: “It was Eosta that caused the food  market to convert to biodegradable plastics.” It is true that there is still plenty of conventional packaging made from polyethylene or even PVC on the market, but the number of customers using biodegradable plastic packaging is increasing considerably.


Picture: Compostable packaging

Leader in the field, Eosta,  an important company supplying the international organic market with fresh fruit and vegetables, gave a clear indication of the way forward. In the words of Volkert Engelsmann (picture), managing director of Eosta  and the driving force behind this development: “Eosta wants to take responsibility and innovate.” As head of the Dutch import-export firm located in Waddinxveen (east of Rotterdam) he explains: “We’ve now had more than a year of experience with the new compostable packaging and we are very happy with it.”  He goes on to say that, before including it in advertising, all the finer points and potential problems involved in converting to the environmentally friendly material had to be dealt with. But now he considers it to be the right time to tell the customers about the new development. Many of these have been waiting a long time for the (oil-based) plastic age to be replaced by just as good but environmentally friendly alternatives.


A beneficial consequence for the trade, whether the whole food wholesaler or the food retailer, is the fact that packaging costs have not increased. “In Holland an attractive grant was introduced a short time ago for converting to biodegradable packaging,” explains Mr. Engelsmann. This two-year project means that the state finances 40 % of current increased costs and 40 % of the costs for re-equipping. Apart from Eosta, the food chain stores of Albert Hein and The Greenery have gone down the same route. Another innovative project will test, for example, the film wrapped round flowers, carrier bags and the use of biodegradable packaging in catering. German legislation has also played a part in this success: from the middle of 2005, biodegradable packaging has been exempt from the charges that have to be paid to the DSD-waste management system. Eosta has just signed a contract with the ‘alternative’ German waste management company Interseroh (picture) which ensures that Interseroh will disseminate information to communities and the trade about the advantages of packaging with the  “bud” logo.


In the meantime, as Volkert Engelsmann proudly states,  Eosta has succeeded in converting 80-90% of its packaging to biodegradable packaging. Only in those cases where special packaging is a requirement will it take a little longer to convert. After all, specific tools have to be made for the machines, the throughput has to be tested and only then is the order to produce the packaging issued. The aim is eventually to convert completely to biodegradable packaging, which Mr Engelsmann certainly considers possible in principle.


No matter whether it is carrots in perforated plastic bags, oranges and lemons in net bags or tomatoes, apples, pears and kiwis on trays covered with film, since last year everything has been packed in biodegradable packaging. ‘Organic on the inside, biodegradable on the outside’; this is the concept that has been put into practice.


Since the consumer has scarcely been aware of the use of ecological packaging, an advertising campaign is planned for this spring mainly in food retailers (for example, Füllhorn). New stickers by the firm Natura, available in different colours and using  three languages and the logo of the bio-plastic umbrella organisation IBAW point out that the packaging  can be composted. (  Employing various media, the aim of the campaign is to provide information to the retail trade and the consumer about the benefits of ecological packaging. Naturally, this enhances the image of the store or the company considerably.
There will probably also be information on the ecological packaging used on the Nature & More website, where details of the agricultural suppliers of Eosta and other participating companies are given. By inputting a code on the  packaging, the consumer can  call up information on the internet (


Eosta is collaborating with the firm Natura Packaging (, that has its headquarters in Rheine and  an agency in Holland. This company supplies Eosta with the whole variety of packaging materials that are necessary to keep products fresh. Mr. Gerritsen, the manager of Natura, shows how pleased he is: “The enthusiasm in both companies for the close cooperation was so great that we were able to get to grips with any problems that occurred.”  What problems did occur? “Well, for example, the see-through packs were sent to South Africa for packaging grapes. We do this so that we have higher value-added in the producer country,” says Mr. Engelsmann. He goes on to explain that with storage temperatures around 50°C, however, the material can lose its shape. Apart from that, there were no problems with handling, and the advantages of the new material made from PLA (polylactid acid) are convincing: less energy is used in production and packaged items keep much better in the breathable material. Mr Gerritsen praises Eosta  for being the innovator that set the ball rolling. Whereas in the past mainly one-off campaigns with compostable packaging and carrier bags were tried, he now expects the large food companies in Europe to adopt the new packaging material permanently. This is already the case with Sainsbury, Delhaize and Carrefour, and several German chains are getting ready to join them.



If it’s organic on the inside, it ought to be organic on the outside.


For three decades the whole food trade was society’s engine of innovation in terms of food and the incentive for the conventional retail food trade to emulate the specialist organics industry. But the engine is slowing down and people are resting on their laurels. For several years now, biodegradable plastic carrier bags, tear-off food bags and other means of packing food have been available. And yet the much praised specialist trade has still been using  conventional bags made from oil-consuming plastic. Forget about being out in  front? In the past few years, Sainsbury, Carrefour and the Italian retail food trade have created a clear image for themselves with ‘bio-bags’. Now we have reached that point in Germany, too. The conventional trade is adopting  degradable packaging, and the specialist whole food trade has not yet woken up to this new development. At least, this is true on the whole, because there are a few intrepid shops that have been using the environmentally friendly packaging of Rapunzel and Pural for years. But they are the praiseworthy exceptions!

But things are moving now. After some hesitation, “Die Regionalen” are about to offer biodegradable bags as well as oil-based plastic bags - somewhat reluctantly, but still a step in the right direction. However, in the case of film that keeps boxes of sensitive vegetables moist, the conventional variety is still being used.

Of course, much less packaging is used in the whole food trade, and that’s a good thing! The less packaging, the less waste is created - that has always been the credo. But wouldn’t  price stand in the way if the bags - though fewer are used in any case - were made out of corn starch.  In fact, the price argument has never prevented environmentally motivated people from implementing a decision that they consider correct. Why should it be different in this case?

We’ll have to see whether the organic industry can put a move on to catch up and, in the longer term, even overtake. It would improve its image no end.


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