Written by Maryam Arshad
Where design meets sustainability, a new material has been engineered with massive potential.
Hydropol™ – designed by Aquapak – is that material. Amongst current fibre-based materials used for packaging, the implications, and characteristics of Hydropol™ push it way ahead of the rest. Although paper packaging appears to be environmentally friendly, where paper and plastic are used in unison the recyclability drops significantly. As soon as plastic linings, plastic film, wax, foil or other materials are added, the packaging is no longer able to be recycled. Subsequently, the majority of fibre-based packaging ends up in landfill or is incinerated.
Designers are making crucial steps towards researching materials which have greater potential in sustainability, minimising waste and contributing to a circular economy. Part of a circular economy refers to biological cycles, where biologically based materials are created with the intention of going full circle and returning back into the system. There is no waste where these materials, in their entirety, are broken down.
Ready to use by designers who are searching for fibre-based packaging materials, the crucial research that has gone into this technology was led by John Williams (Chief Technology Officer, Aquapak). The thorough testing, revisions, and engineering behind Hydropol™ have resulted in a material which shows great promise for meeting goals on sustainability and environmental preservation.
Hydropol™ – already prominent within several products – was designed in cohesion with Aquapak’s objectives of integrating their materials into systems within a circular economy. The technology behind this material means that waste, plastic pollution, and environmental harm is significantly reduced. Consequences like these are largely common when referring to the cycle of packaging materials and propel this material ahead of others.
Without faltering on quality standards, this material is non-toxic, biodegradable and water soluble. Notably, it has a high barrier threshold against oxygen, oil and grease – crucial for materials used in packaging. The material can be recycled, re-pulped or composted, a powerful quality for any material which ensures it can be broken down completely. As mentioned, current materials used in fibre-based packaging don’t allow for this, due to the fact that materials are unable to be separated post use. Especially where packaging is limited to single-use and contributing to plastic waste, this property is especially important.
Hydropol™ was engineered so that no microplastics are formed, in combination with its water solubility, effective in both hot and cold environments. Plastic, of which nearly 13 million tonnes reaches the seas every year, poses a great threat to the increasingly fragile ecosystems and environments. These crucial properties and environmentally friendly technologies mean that these materials can now be effectively used in conscious and sustainable design.
The study findings show that the material is 3 times as strong when compared to other fibre-based materials, and is effective in use independently or in combination with other materials. Its current use in garment bags, laundry bags and organic waste disposal bags highlight the possibilities. Uses amongst home and ecommerce products are currently undergoing rigorous research and testing by Aquapak.
Sustainable and circular design is growing exponentially. Bursting at the front are materials such as these, that show significant potential and are essential for designers. Research and testing that goes into these materials needs to be thorough, to ensure properties are meeting standards. Aquapak has engineered the design of a sustainable and conscious material using specialised technology which has massive potential. No doubt, the future of design should be centred around incorporating the use of these materials, alongside research and testing into materials which can be embedded into a circular and sustainable economy.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash. Image licence found here.