All images courtesy of Cyberpac unless otherwise noted.
Vanishing without a trace might not be appreciated in friends and lovers but is an excellent relationship to have with one’s used packaging material. What becomes a pile of plastic garbage is that it should just disappear into thin air, right? Well, a newly developed plastic bag does just that – it completely dissolves in water. Companies use it when sending their products, magazines for example, to users, who can simply dissolve it at home – no trace of the bag left, less plastic on the environment. Our only question is: Why hasn’t anyone come up with this concept before?
Two empty magazine bags, what's next?
Cyberpac, a UK-based packaging company, has developed a range of products – called Harmless – that use a hydro-degradable plastic that is up to three times stronger than polythene, lighter and leaves no damaging residue after dissolving in water. A bit skeptical of this promise, we’ve taken a look at the dissolving bag’s actual disappearing act.
The next step of the instructions says “Run the hot tap or boil a kettle.” Okay, here we go.
Here’s the best part: there’s actually no water required to get rid of the bag at all. As it’s non-toxic and biodegradable, if you’re in no rush to dissolve your bag, just throw it on the compost pile!
Oh, wait: "and remove strip.”
Okay, because the glue’s strip, though biodegradable, will not dissolve in water.
Here’s what Cyberpac says:
“Harmless-Dissolve is non-toxic and is degraded by micro-organisms, moulds and yeasts. These organisms can occur in both artificial environments, such as anaerobic digesters, activated sewage sludge and composts and natural environments such as aquatic systems and soil."
“Place bag in receptacle and pour on hot water”.
The company explains the process further: "The micro-organisms use Harmless-Dissolve as a food source by producing a variety of enzymes that are capable of reacting with it. In the end the bag becomes carbon dioxide, water and biomass.”
In other words, the bugs love it! We love it too.
Printed areas will take a bit longer to dissolve.
One question remains: Why did it take so long to come up with this concept? When we asked Cyberpac’s managing director Will Anderson, he pointed to the production specifications and costs that had to be figured out before the product could get off the ground. The recession surely didn’t help matters either.
And, finally, “pour solution down the drain” – bye bye!
Cyberpac's Managing Director Will Anderson explains further: “The concept came about some 12 months ago when we were making a similar application for the electronics industry. I took the product and analysed it before pushing the material some more to get a better quality finish and feel. We sought bio inks and even a bio peel and seal lip to deliver an industry first for Creative Review. Some of the challenges we faced were in the conversion to bags and the behaviour of the material across the presses however, apart from those small issues we have had tremendous success.”
Cool, we’re almost convinced; let’s just take a look at this video as well.
Knowing our readers, we’re sure that at least a few will point out that energy is consumed when boiling water and that clean drinking water is used. Well spotted, but boiling water is actually not necessary and any waste water or rain water can be used.
Depending on the product wrapped, the bag can be set to dissolve in cold or warm water from 5 degrees Celsius to 40 or 60C, ensuring that your magazine will not get wet if you or the postman is caught in the rain.
This plastic can go on the compost pile.
Cyberpac has had so much success with their dissolving bag that the company has been inundated with demand across the globe – especially Russia, Brazil and South Africa – and has begun setting up in Australia.
For those convinced by the dissolving bag, there’s good news: There are more environmentally friendly products out there, such as a line of compostable bags, envelopes, sacks, jiffy bags, biodegradable bubble wrap, air pillows and more. Potential uses seem endless, for example for replacing cotton laundry bags in hotels and hospitals and thus reducing this load. The material’s natural anti-static qualities also make it useful when packing electronics. Harmless for the environment but revolutionary when it comes to packaging.
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