Bio-Based Packaging Materials

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based packaging materials are revolutionizing the packaging industry by offering eco-friendly alternatives to conventional petroleum-based plastics. These materials are derived from renewable biomass sources such as plant starches, cellulose, lignin, seaweed, and other natural polymers. They provide a compelling solution to the global plastic pollution crisis by offering biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable options, effectively reducing the environmental impact of packaging waste.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Packaging Materials reduce reliance on fossil fuels, mitigating carbon emissions. They offer sustainable alternatives to traditional packaging, curbing plastic pollution and deforestation. By promoting eco-friendly practices in industries, they foster a circular economy, advancing global efforts towards a greener future and reinforcing sustainable development goals.


  • Biomass Conversion and Packaging Material Production: Transforming biomass into functional packaging materials involves a variety of techniques:
    • Bioplastic Production: Bioplastics, like PLA (polylactic acid) and PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), are produced from plant-based starches, sugars, or other biomass through fermentation or chemical processes. These bioplastics can be molded, extruded, or thermoformed into various packaging formats.
    • Paper and Cardboard Alternatives: Innovative materials are being developed from alternative sources, like agricultural residues and fast-growing grasses, to create sustainable alternatives to traditional paper and cardboard.
    • Bio-Based Coatings: Coatings derived from plant oils, waxes, or other natural polymers are applied to paper or bioplastics to enhance barrier properties, improve water resistance, or add functionalities like compostability.
    • Molding and Shaping Technologies: Bio-based packaging materials can be formed into various shapes and designs using conventional packaging manufacturing technologies, such as injection molding, blow molding, and thermoforming.

TRL : 8-9 (for many materials and applications)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Performance Bio-Based Films and Coatings: Innovations focus on developing bio-based films and coatings with improved barrier properties against oxygen, moisture, and grease, extending product shelf life and reducing food waste.
  • Active and Intelligent Packaging: Incorporating bio-based sensors or indicators into packaging materials to monitor product freshness, detect spoilage, or provide information about storage conditions.
  • Edible and Water-Soluble Packaging: Developing packaging materials that are edible or dissolve in water, completely eliminating packaging waste.
  • Bio-Based Foams and Cushioning Materials: Utilizing bio-based foams made from materials like mycelium (mushroom roots) or seaweed to create protective cushioning for fragile products.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Bio-Based Films with Enhanced Barrier Properties
  • Edible Packaging Solutions
  • Water-Soluble Packaging Innovations
  • Active Packaging with Bio-Based Sensors
  • Intelligent Packaging Indicators
  • Bio-Based Foams for Cushioning
  • Mycelium-Based Packaging Materials
  • Seaweed-Derived Packaging Innovations
  • Agricultural Residue-Based Paper Alternatives
  • Fast-Growing Grass Packaging Materials
  • Plant Oil-Derived Bio-Coatings
  • Wax-Based Bio-Coatings
  • Injection Molding for Bio-Based Plastics
  • Blow Molding Bio-Based Packaging
  • Thermoforming Bio-Based Materials
  • Compostable Flexible Packaging Solutions
  • Biodegradable Pouches for Food Industry
  • Sustainable Beverage Bottles
  • Eco-Friendly E-Commerce Packaging
  • Nanocellulose-Based Packaging Films

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. TIPA:
    • Technology Enhancement: TIPA offers fully compostable packaging solutions made from bio-based materials. Their technology combines bio-based polymers with proprietary blends to create flexible packaging that decomposes within composting conditions.
    • Uniqueness: TIPA’s packaging materials provide a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics, offering the same level of functionality and durability while being compostable at end-of-life.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: TIPA serves various industries, including food and beverage, fashion, e-commerce, and personal care, catering to businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact and meet sustainability goals.
  2. Full Cycle Bioplastics:
    • Technology Enhancement: Full Cycle Bioplastics specializes in converting organic waste into biodegradable bioplastics through a fermentation process using bacteria. Their technology allows for the production of a range of bioplastic materials suitable for various applications.
    • Uniqueness: Full Cycle Bioplastics’ approach addresses the issue of organic waste management while producing bioplastics as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Full Cycle Bioplastics targets industries seeking sustainable packaging solutions, including consumer goods, packaging manufacturers, and waste management companies.
  3. Notpla:
    • Technology Enhancement: Notpla develops edible and biodegradable packaging solutions derived from seaweed. Their technology involves processing seaweed into a flexible and waterproof material that can be used for single-use packaging applications.
    • Uniqueness: Notpla’s packaging materials are edible, providing a unique solution to single-use packaging waste by offering an alternative that can be safely consumed or decomposed.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Notpla primarily targets the food and beverage industry, including quick-service restaurants, events, and catering companies, offering sustainable packaging options for takeaway and on-the-go consumption.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands):
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research’s (WUR) research on Bio-Based Packaging Materials centers around developing sustainable packaging solutions derived from renewable biomass sources, such as agricultural residues, algae, or cellulose-based materials.
    • Uniqueness: WUR’s approach emphasizes the utilization of locally available biomass resources and advanced processing techniques to produce bio-based packaging materials with tailored properties, including barrier properties, mechanical strength, and biodegradability.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of WUR’s research span various sectors, including food packaging, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. For example, their bio-based packaging materials offer an eco-friendly alternative to conventional plastics, reducing reliance on fossil-based materials and minimizing environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle.
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology (USA):
    • Research Focus: Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) conducts research on Bio-Based Packaging Materials with a focus on novel materials design, processing technologies, and functionalization techniques to enhance the performance and sustainability of packaging solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Georgia Tech’s research integrates principles of materials science, chemistry, and engineering to develop bio-based packaging materials with advanced functionalities, such as antimicrobial properties, gas barrier properties, and recyclability.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Georgia Tech’s research extend across diverse industries, including food and beverage, healthcare, and consumer goods. Their bio-based packaging materials offer improved shelf-life extension, product protection, and environmental compatibility, contributing to the transition towards a circular economy.
  3. KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden):
    • Research Focus: KTH Royal Institute of Technology focuses its research on Bio-Based Packaging Materials on developing innovative biopolymer blends, nanocomposites, and bio-based coatings for packaging applications, with an emphasis on scalability and commercial viability.
    • Uniqueness: KTH’s approach integrates bio-based polymers with nanotechnology and surface modification techniques to enhance the barrier properties, mechanical strength, and printability of packaging materials, addressing key performance requirements in various packaging applications.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of KTH’s research encompass packaging solutions for food, beverages, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Their bio-based packaging materials offer improved functionality, sustainability, and consumer appeal, driving market adoption and reducing the environmental footprint of packaging waste.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based packaging materials are widely adopted across various industries, driven by consumer demand, environmental regulations, and advancements in bio-based material technology:

  • Food Packaging: Biodegradable and compostable bioplastics are increasingly used for food packaging, including trays, containers, films, and pouches.
  • Beverage Packaging: Bio-based bottles and cartons are emerging as sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic bottles.
  • E-commerce Packaging: Bio-based cushioning materials and protective packaging are being used to ship fragile items, reducing the environmental impact of e-commerce packaging.