In this age of renewed environmental awareness, few things are as frustrating as receiving a package and being left with a pile of foam packaging. Beyond creating more plastic waste, styrofoam is also bulky and, when you break it down, those annoying little white bits fly everywhere. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just wash our foam packaging problem away? According to KTM Industries, we can—and their biodegradable foam that you can literally dissolve down the drain has been gaining traction.
This week, Perdue Farms launched a new ecommerce website allowing shoppers to buy chicken and other meats directly from the company. But tucked into the announcement was news about how these frozen orders will be shipped to consumers: “All packaging from online orders is 100 percent recyclable,” Perdue wrote. “The foam insulation is made from water-soluble cornstarch, which can be composted or even disintegrated under running water and safely rinsed down a kitchen sink.”
If that last line has you doing a double-take, meet Green Cell Foam. The corn-based foam packaging replacement is billed as offering “the most flexibility and convenience in disposal options of ANY packaging material—going far beyond just recycling.”
KTM Industries, which produces the “USDA Certified Biobased Product and 100 Percent Compostable” foam, says you can compost it, dissolve large pieces in a bucket of water, or even “put small pieces in the sink and watch it ‘melt’ safely down the drain” in under 60 seconds. (Here’s there video evidence.) “Green Cell Foam is safe for drains, septic tanks and waste treatment centers,” the company further explains. (For the record, KTM’s final suggestion for disposal is that the foam “burns cleanly and safely in fireplaces, firepits and power plants—works great to start your barbecue!” Who wants burgers?)
Incredibly, Green Cell Foam has been around since 2002. So if it’s so great, why are we only hearing about it now? Speaking with CNN, David Zucker, Perdue Farms' senior vice president of e-commerce and new ventures, may have hinted at the answer. “We've had significant conversations at the company in the past year about our sustainability efforts and what more we can do to reduce the impact on the environment,” he said.
Perdue isn’t the only big name that’s jumped on the Green Cell Foam bandwagon: In the past year, Jenny Craig, Crowd Cow, and Canada’s NIKU Farms have all added the packaging—which purportedly also “requires 70 percent less energy and produces 80 percent less greenhouse gases than petroleum based foams.” So the likely explanation as to why this biodegradable foam is gaining visibility now is that more companies are looking for sustainable options and they want to show off those credentials once they have them.
The pharmaceutical company Sandoz began using Green Cell Foam in 2008, and in an interview with Packaging World a couple years later, Mark Kuhl, the company’s then-packaging development and sustainability manager, hammered this point home.
“Cost is important, but so is sustainability,” he explained. “It's worth going with the ‘green’ solution even if it costs a bit more, because over the long haul, it normally ends up saving money and benefits the environment.”