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From Space, the Earth looks like a blue marble....

Press Release: October 17th, 2000

No-hassle disposal for new packaging

The New Zealand launch of a biodegradable packing material comes amidst a growing worldwide backlash against the waste caused by the disposal of product packaging.

Many countries of the world are now passing legislation to stop the widespread dumping of packaging materials, and increasing pressure is being put on importers and exporters to solve the problem.
The high-profile ‘green’ movement and increasing awareness of environmental issues among consumers is also a factor, with many marketing companies now looking for more environmentally acceptable product packaging, to keep on side with pollution-conscious buyers.

The release this week of Planetpak loosefill packaging by the Blue Marble Polymers company gives New Zealand firms a competitively priced alternative to traditional petroleum-based loosefill ‘peanut’ packaging.
Planetpak is the name of a new starch-based loosefill product which will literally dissolve in water after its protective packaging job is over. Its biodegradable make-up circumvents the problem of waste packaging which simply ends up filling rubbish dumps all around the world.

The technology behind the Planetpak product is already well known, and the biodegradable loosefill has been available in Europe and the USA for about 10 years. It is accepted as a mainstream product in those countries, taking up to 30% of the market for loosefill packaging in some regions of the USA, and more than 10% nationwide.
The already strong acceptance of the new product is also being helped by the recent rise in global oil prices. The new, biodegradable product is now matching petroleum-based polystyrene products on price, adding to the appeal of its competitive product protection abilities. Because the starch-based product will dissolve harmlessly in water after use, it also helps marketing and exporting companies to comply with international packaging legislation.
Companies will also be able to benefit from use of the product in a marketing sense, promoting it as a more environmentally aware product compared to loosefill polystyrene.

It has taken some time for the biodegradable loosefill material to make it to the New Zealand market because until now it has proved difficult to make manufacture economic in a country with a market as small as ours.
Blue Marble Polymers (owned by the Christchurch-based Gough Technology company) has spent much of the past two years working on specialist manufacturing processes to make the product viable.

Assisted by funding from Technology NZ, Blue Marble Polymers has worked with several New Zealand companies and the company which makes the biogradable product in the US, to solve a number of technical hurdles.

The loosefill ‘peanut’ product will be followed onto the New Zealand market by foam panel and foam shell packaging variants.

Anya Hornsey, Technology Developments Manager with Blue Marble Polymers, is expecting a strong market for the Planetpak product in this country. She says market research has already brought an “exciting” response for potential clients.
“There is already a willingness to get away from using polystyrene,” she says.
“Companies are looking to move away from the polystyrene ‘peanuts’ because of the legal difficulties of shipping polystyrene into Europe. And while there’s also a drive from companies wanting to be greener, they are also looking to be independent of regulations, taxes and levies.
“The benefits of the biogradable loosefill are quantifiable in dollar terms but they also provide a good marketing point on an environmental basis,” she says.

The Planetpak product is being officially launched at the PackTech 2000 packaging expo in Auckland this week.

For more information: Anya Hornsey, Technology Developments Manager, Blue Marble Polymers, 61 Wickham St Christchurch. tel 0-3-3845877.
Email:; web:

Background paper: October 10, 2000
Bluemarble Polymers & Planetpak protective foam packaging

From Space, the Earth looks like a blue marble....

Perhaps it was during the historic series of Apollo space flights between1968 and 1972 that human beings truly began to appreciate the fragility of the planet earth.

It was the Apollo space programme of that era which produced the famous and moving photograph of a tiny, blue planet floating in the depths of space - looking like a lonely blue marble.
It was possibly one of the most published early photographs of the earth from space, snapped through the window of an Apollo spacecraft.
The picture was overwhelmingly blue and white. It showed Africa (with Asia just on the horizon) as the principle land mass. It showed an ocean with Madagascar on the right. It showed the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean and at the bottom of the earth was a great, white cloud mass.
Anyone who sees that picture could hardly miss the message - our planet is a tiny speck floating in space – unique, fragile, vulnerable.
Back in the 1960s and ‘70s when the Apollo spacecraft patrolled space between the earth and the moon, the green movement was yet to make it onto the front pages of newspapers around the globe, but today there is a strong realisation that man cannot continue to damage the earth’s environment.
There are many major environmental issues yet to be solved – the massive rate of fossil fuel consumption, the tonnes of pollution spewed into the atmosphere each year and the damage to the ozone layer, among others. However, there is a widespread acceptance that where environmentally harmful products can be replaced by better alternatives, that change should be made.
Hence the development of a biodegradable starch and water alternative to one of the most prevalent forms of protective foam packaging – petroleum-based polystyrene “peanuts” or loose fill packaging. Instead of lying around in landfills like its polystyrene equivalent, the new biodegradable packaging product will literally break down in water and dissolve – leaving no trace of itself.

Biodegradable loosefill packaging is already well-accepted in the major population centres of the USA and Europe. In the US for instance, it is taking up to 30% of the market for loosefill in some regions, and accounts for more than 10% of sales nationwide.


Its popularity has partly stemmed from legislation in many countries which seeks to cut down on the amount of waste packaging filling rubbish dumps. Germany is a prominent example, but there are many other countries in Europe and elsewhere who have also taken a stand against packaging waste. Consumers around the world are also pressuring companies to cut down the amount of packaging waste associated with their products.
Despite the growing resistance to packaging ‘rubbish’, the biodegradable product is only now being launched here in New Zealand, after a two-year development programme by Bluemarble Polymers of Christchurch. With some funding assistance from Technology New Zealand and through technical associations with companies in the US and here in New Zealand, Bluemarble Polymers has managed to circumvent one of the major problems facing the introduction of biodegradable loosefill packaging – the high capital cost of equipment needed to produce it.
The Christchurch-based company has managed to overcome practical difficulties which have until now made production of the starch-based loosefill economically prohibitive for small population centres like New Zealand.
The launch of the loosefill product in New Zealand will lead on to foam panel and foam shell packaging variants – all with the same biodegradable qualities which will literally see the products dissolve away in water after their protective packaging job is over.

For more information: Anya Hornsey, Technology Developments Manager, Blue Marble Polymers, 61 Wickham St Christchurch. tel 0-3-3845877. Email:; web:


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