Paperfoam and the Compostable Packaging Revolution

Meghan French Dunbar July 4, 2015
PaperFoam, based in the Netherlands, specializes in making bio-based, environmentally friendly packaging materials. Using injection-molded technology, the company’s unique product combines industrial starch, natural fibers, water, and a premix to create a homecompostable material that replaces traditional packaging products. In addition to being compostable, biodegradable, and paper recyclable, the material is incredibly light, which decreases carbon emissions during transport, and the production of the material uses locally sourced renewable materials and is less carbon-intensive than the production of traditional packaging materials.

Companies like Microsoft and Burt’s Bees are beginning to take notice of this innovative company to provide a more sustainable solution for their packaging needs.


Packaging for Veuve Clicquot Champagne


How did PaperFoam get started?

PaperFoam started business in 1998 as a result of research carried out by AVEBE, the potato starch supplier in the Netherlands, which was seeking a bio-plastics application made from starches. After this research was stopped, we continued focusing on injection-molded mixtures of starches and fibers. The PaperFoam material proved to be a great material for making consumer electronics packaging.

Packaging for Burt’s Bees Cosmetics

Packages for Sonicare

What success has PaperFoam had so far? Who are some of your customers?

In our early years, the focus on green solutions was not as big as it is nowadays. We began by focusing on establishing worldwide operations with well-known customers like Motorola, AMD, Philips, etc.

At present, we have many customers, not only in the field of electronics, but also in cosmetics, media, medical devices, and food. Some well-known examples of recent and current customers are Microsoft, Plantronics, Burt’s Bees, Philips, Nobel Biocare, Medtronic, Cochlear, Petzl, Nest, Veuve Clicquot, as well as many not-yet well-known startups and local brands. We have production facilities in three locations: North Carolina, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.

Why doesn’t everyone use PaperFoam? Is it more expensive than regular plastic?

Not everybody is using PaperFoam for a variety of reasons:

• Although we have existed since 1998, our materials are not yet as well-known as materials like paper, pulp, and plastic.

• PaperFoam is not applicable in all circumstances, for example in high humidity conditions.

• Although we produce worldwide, the distance between our factories and potential customers can prohibit cost-effective deliveries. It is in many cases a voluminous shipment.

• Compared to low value packaging, PaperFoam has a higher price. However, compared to many high marketing value packaging options, PaperFoam can be cheaper than conventional packaging materials.

 What other applications are there for PaperFoam besides packaging?

There are some other applications for PaperFoam, especially in medical device applications. We are working on those applications, but they are not yet available in the market.

 What do you see as the future for your company?

We are working to expand our sales volumes. To this end, we plan to open PaperFoam production plants in other regions (West Coast US, China, Eastern Europe, and India). As a result, the availability of PaperFoam will grow and find more applications in the market.

We anticipate that our growth will be strongest in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, where the search for green solutions is growing, as well as in specific sectors within the food industry. At present, we are already serving a Dutch egg supplier (Rondeel). In the near future, we will also serve other egg suppliers with low carbon footprint, high marketing value egg packaging made from PaperFoam.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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