With all the different sustainable and eco-friendly packaging options available it can be difficult to find the right option for your brand's packaging. This article is a complete introduction to molded paper pulp packaging also known as Bagasse (Sugarcane) molded pulp.
In this article we will cover:
What is bagasse molded pulp?
The sustainability and eco-friendliness of molded pulp?
How molded pulp is made.
What are the best applications for molded pulp?
Customization and design considerations of molded pulp.
An Introduction to Molded Pulp Packaging:
Molded pulp is made from Bagasse fiber which is a fibrous material that is left behind after sugarcane juice has been extracted. It is a renewable resource that can be used to create a variety of products, including molded pulp packaging.
Why is molded pulp is a sustainable and eco-friendly material:
Molded pulp packaging has sustainable and eco-friendly benefits over traditional plastic packaging and is a good choice for businesses that are looking to reduce their environmental impact.
Molded pulp is biodegradable and compostable, meaning that it will break down naturally in the environment without leaving behind harmful pollutants.
Molded pulp is also renewable, so it can be replenished without depleting natural resources.
How is molded pulp made?
Molded pulp packaging is made by combining bagasse with water and a binder to create a pulp slurry. The slurry is then poured into a mold where it is cured under high heat and pressure and then allowed to dry. The resulting product is a strong, lightweight, and durable material that can be used to create a variety of packaging shapes and sizes.
The best applications for molded pulp to make your packaging more sustainable & eco-friendly:
In addition to its sustainability and eco-friendly benefits, molded pulp packaging is also a cost-effective and versatile material. It can be used to create a variety of packaging applications, including:
Foodservice packaging: Molded pulp is a popular choice for foodservice packaging because it is sturdy and can withstand the rigors of food handling. It is also non-toxic and food-safe, making it a safe choice for food contact.
Retail and CPG packaging: Molded pulp is also used in retail packaging, such as boxes and bags. It is a good choice for products that need to be protected from damage during shipping and handling.
Promotional packaging: Molded pulp can also be used for promotional packaging, such as displays and gift boxes. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly way to promote a business or product.
Industrial packaging: Molded pulp is also used in industrial packaging, such as dunnage and shipping materials. It is a lightweight and durable material that can help to protect products during shipping.
The benefits of molded pulp material are:
It is lightweight so it's easy to transport and store.
It is strong and durable, making it suitable for heavy-duty applications.
It is moisture-resistant, so it has become popular as a plastic alternative in food and beverage packaging.
It is recyclable and compostable, with most consumers being familiar with the material so it has a better likelihood of making it to the recycling bin.
Molded Pulp - Sustainable & Eco-friendly Packaging Customization, Design, and Production Overview:
So now that we have covered the "what is it" of molded pulp, let's dive deeper into the customizations and design aspects of the material. Here our focus will skew toward the consumer packaged goods (CPG) applications as this is where most of the customization is utilized.
To begin, there are actually 3 production methods for molded pulp, each lending itself to a different type of use in packaging.
Here is a table summarizing the differences between wet-press, semi-wet press, and dry press bagasse molded pulp:
The main difference between wet-press, semi-wet press, and dry press bagasse molded pulp is the amount of water used in the manufacturing process and how that relates to the finished look/feel.
Wet-press bagasse molded pulp:
Is made with the most water making the pulp slurry very wet. the slurry is then poured into a mold, machine-pressed/cured using heat and pressure, and then allowed to dry. This process results in a smooth and refined finish, but it is also the most time-consuming and expensive method. However, due to the rapidly growing popularity and common plastic alternative, the cost has drastically reduced in the last 3 years and will continue to do so with greater adoption.
Luxury packaging: Wet-press molded pulp is often used for luxury packaging because it can be produced with a smooth and refined finish. This type of packaging is often used for high-end cosmetics, electronics, and other products.
Foodservice packaging: Wet-press molded pulp can also be used for foodservice packaging. It is a good choice for products that need to be protected from moisture and contamination. This type of packaging is often used for fruit and vegetable trays, clamshells, and other food containers.
Semi-wet press bagasse molded pulp:
Is made with less water than wet-press making it even more eco-friendly. The pulp slurry is still wet, but it is not as wet as wet-press. The finishing process still involves pouring the slurry into a mold, however, less pressure/heat is needed during the curing process. The result is a slightly rougher finish than wet-press, but it is faster and less expensive to produce.
Foodservice packaging: Semi-wet press molded pulp is often used for foodservice packaging because it is a good compromise between cost and quality. It is not as smooth as wet-press molded pulp, but it is stronger and more moisture-resistant. This type of packaging is often used for fruit and vegetable trays, clamshells, and other food containers.
Retail packaging: Semi-wet press molded pulp can also be used for retail packaging. It is a good choice for products that need to be protected from damage during shipping and handling. This type of packaging is often used for boxes and bags.
Industrial packaging: Semi-wet press molded pulp can also be used for industrial packaging. It is a good choice for products that need to be strong and durable, but do not need a smooth finish. This type of packaging is often used for dunnage, shipping materials, and other industrial applications.
Dry press bagasse molded pulp
Is made with the least amount of water. The pulp slurry is almost dry and is pressed into a mold. This process results in a rough finish, but it is the fastest and least expensive method to produce.
E-commerce: Often used in e-commerce packaging because it is the fastest and least expensive method to produce. Common uses are for shipping products such as electronics, clothing, and other fragile items.
Industrial packaging: It is a good choice for products that need to be strong and durable, but do not need a smooth finish. Common uses are for dunnage, shipping materials, and other industrial applications.
Heavy-duty products: It is a good choice for products that need to be able to withstand a lot of weight and stress. Common uses are for furniture, appliances, and other heavy-duty products.
A little-known fact about molded pulp is it can be colored without affecting its sustainability. There are a number of natural dyes that can be used to color bagasse molded pulp, such as:
Vegetable dyes, such as turmeric, beetroot, and spirulina
Plant dyes, such as indigo and madder
Mineral dyes, such as iron oxide and copper sulfate
These dyes are all non-toxic and biodegradable, so they do not affect the sustainability of the bagasse molded pulp. They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
Designing to save cost:
A few important considerations when designing molded pulp packaging/trays are:
Try to use 1 mold for the entire package. Each mold will have a separate mold fee and these range from $1,000-$3,000 depending on size, thickness, and complexity. Alternatively, if you get creative using clam-shell or fold lines, there can be large savings in the development costs. Although it is not always possible to do this it is an important consideration to make at the beginning of the design process.
Below is a good example of the benefits of designing your packaging as a single mold.
Additional molded pulp customization:
Easy ways to customize the design of molded pulp include -
Adding embossed or debossed logo
Bold or large text can also be embossed or debossed
Colored pulp - MOQ limitations
Screen printing - most suitable for dry-press molded pulp
Here are examples of what you can do with molded pulp:
If you are looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly packaging solution, bagasse molded pulp is a good option to consider.
Let our designers and packaging engineers help you choose the best option for your next project!