Compostable starch-expanded film for packaging and building applications

Can foamed packaging film made from the renewable raw material starch become a long-term resource-saving alternative to fossil-based plastics? This question is being investigated by the Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Loick Biowertstoff GmbH, IKV, SHS plus GmbH and Gefinex GmbH in a joint project entitled "Starch-expanded film".

From starch to foam film | Image: IKV/Gefine

Expanded plastics from fossil raw materials have been an integral part of our everyday life for many years. The problem is that the packaging film available on the market such as expanded polystyrene (PS), polyethylene (LDPE) or polyurethane (PU) are mostly disposed of after a single use. And even when they do land in the recyclable material bin, they are in most cases sent for thermal recycling, which is an enormous waste of resources. One starting point for much more sustainable materials management is the use of renewable raw materials that can additionally be composted after use.

The project aims to develop a foamed material based on the renewable raw material starch, and is to be used as a flexible film in the packaging or construction sector.

Following a successful start to the project, the research team has now developed the first compound of starch, additives and biopolymers. In parallel with this, work is being carried out on the process development. By the end of 2025, the target is thus to have an industrially producible, marketable product made of renewable raw materials.