A compostable cling-wrap alternative for cucumbers developed by Adelaide manufacturer BioBags is generating interest from overseas consumers in Qatar and South Africa.
The plastic alternative is currently used exclusively by South Australian independent supermarket Drakes, which commissioned the plastic alternative from IG Fresh Produce.
“JP Drake put the challenge to us and so we gave them product exclusivity for the first four weeks,” IG Fresh executive director George Antonas said in a statement.
“There’s a big push to make all single-use packaging compostable … Plastic has its place but not for single use, it just creates too much waste.”
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After mid-October, when the exclusivity deal comes to an end, the product will be available to other produce sellers, including those in the Qatari market who already buy Australian cucumbers.
Although compostable packaging is already used around the world in agriculture, supermarkets, councils and homes, the cucumber wrap is the first of its kind.
IG Fresh sourced these wraps from BioBags, a local manufacturer of compostable agricultural film and plastic bag replacements.
BioBags’ products are made with Mater-Bi, which mimics traditional plastics using a biopolymer made from a variety of plant starches such as corn.
Importing Mater-Bi in resin form from Italy, BioBags uses its machinery to create its different products, which are essentially different grades of Mater-Bi film.
Managing director of BioBags Scott Morton tells StartupSmart the main challenge in adapting the existing bioplastic technology for cucumbers had everything to do with opacity.
“The key was the clarity — you needed to see the cucumber — whereas a lot of starch-based products are a little bit cloudier,” he says.
“And then the other key was that it had to shrink.”
Following the market response to the cucumber wraps, Morton says there’s a possibility it will lead to wraps for other fruits and vegetables, such as an atmospheric bag to reduce the speed of food degradation.
The cucumber wrap’s release follows a market push for environmentally responsible packaging. The major supermarkets last year scrapped single-use plastic bags across most states. Earlier this year, supermarket giant Aldi faced pressure to reduce plastic packaging.
Other industries are following a similar train of innovation. Fashion startups Kusafa Athletic and Bella Bodies have both created separate lines of T-shirts and underwear respectively, and Oh Crap has released biodegradable dog litter bags for pet owners.
It also comes on the back of the recent global climate strike, which was supported by dozens of Australian small businesses.