Bioplastics expert Jeff Timm points out four realities to this market and offers 12 essential website resources.

Jeff Timm of Timm Consulting

You’ll find in our upcoming June-July issue what I think is a terrific and authoritative update on the complexities and opportunities related to bioplastics especially for packaging for food and beverage products from Jeff Timm. If you’re in the bioplastics field, then you probably know Timm already (you’ll find his bio brief at the end of this article). He’s the program director for the Bio-Plastek 2011 Forum on Bioplastics June 27-29 in New York City (more information below).

In either event, I think you’ll find his insightful observations illuminating. Meantime, I wanted to provide a preview of one of the questions we had for Timm along with an exclusive list of his pick of the most useful websites for those developing or using packaging that includes bioplastics.
-Rick Lingle, Editor in chief

F&BP: What are the realities of the bioplastics market?

Timm: There are a number of major market realities:

a.First, tremendous confusion exists surrounding materials, technology and marketing claims.
The consumer clearly wants sustainable products. However, when faced with real-world decisions on how to achieve that goal there are confusing marketplace signals. Some packaging companies blatantly mislead consumers with false claims while other companies have tried using bioplastics only to be disappointed by their fitness in use or processing difficulties.
Additionally, performance expectations have not been meet in all cases, especially when it comes to compostability. Consumer expectations and actual performance realities have not aligned creating disappointment.

b.There is inadequate end-of-life (EOL) consumer understanding and expectations around disposal.
Many consumers believe biodegradation is simply throwing a bottle out the car window and having it degrade in a relatively short period of time. This is far from reality. The misunderstanding around landfills also leads to confusion. Plastics, including bioplastics, for the most part do not degrade in landfills. A better matching of bioplastics degradation properties and consumer expectations is needed.

c. End-of-life disposal programs need to be developed on a national level.
The hodgepodge of local, city and state regulations around recycling and plastic usage and disposal only adds to the confusion. For example, incineration should be part of the public disposal debate, but it rarely is in the U.S.

d.The whole public understanding of green-house-gas (GHG), carbon footprint, “new” carbon vs. “old” carbon layered on top of a discussion on sustainability and the addition of bioplastic applications has been too great an educational burden for the consumer.
A simple example: Do the numbers inside the recycle chasing  arrows symbol appearing on most plastic packaging identify the type of plastic or that it is recyclable or both?  We need to have a collective common understanding in order to make informed decisions.

Look for the complete feature in the June-July issue of Food & Beverage Packaging.  Timm also offers this exclusive list of websites:

Recommended websites

Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of GreenBlue

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Consumer Goods Forum-Global Packaging Project

Bio-Pol Blog (Bioplastic & sustainable materials blog)

Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI)-Bioplastics Council

Vincotte-OK Biobased Home Compost (European Certification)

Biodegradable Products Institute

Cedar Grove Composting-outstanding reference on the ins-and-outs of compostable plastics

Doran Manufacturing Co., Inc.-outstanding reference on recycling, bioplastics used in thermoforming and blister packaging

Jeff Timm has spent more than 35 years in the plastics industry with Fortune 100 companies with positions ranging from sales and marketing research to leadership roles in product and business management and business development. The last six years have been as managing principal for Timm Consulting, Franksville, WI, a plastics business and market development consultancy focusing on bioplastics. Timm can be reached at or He has also been involved with Bio-Plastek:

Bio-Plastek 2011 Forum on Bioplastics

June 27 to June 29, 2011
The Forum will be held the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

The H.J. Heinz Co.made headlines recently when it announced that starting this June it will use The Coca-Cola Co. plant-based plastic bottle to package its venerable ketchup in the U.S. and then expand its use worldwide. Heinz’s Dr. Michael Okoroafor, Vice President-Packaging R&D/Innovation, will deliver a keynote presentation exclusively at the BioPlastek 2011 Forum on Bioplastics Today and Tomorrow.  

The rationale for the decision by H.J. Heinz is that consumers seek products that are both innovative and that protect the environment.   It is consistent with the title of Dr. Okoroafor’s keynote presentation, “Leveraging Creative Biobased Packaging to Drive Brand Differentiation.” 

Dr. Okoroafor’s  leadoff presentation at the BioPlastek 2011 Forum will address packaging opportunities that are derived from plant-based materials and enabling key supply chain requirements.  Following will be more than 40 presentations from the bioplastics value chain providing insightful analyses of where the bioplastics industry is today, where it will be tomorrow and why.

Contact:Ronald S. Schotland
Phone: 609-466-9191