Smart Material Choice: The Importance of Circular Design Strategy Applications for Bio-Based Food Packaging Preproduction and End-of-Life Life Cycle Stages
This article provides a systematic literature review on the integrated approach of bio-based plastic food packaging in a circular economy. It focuses on the following key areas: (1) the role of bio-based plastic food packaging in a circular product design strategy and material choice in the preproduction life cycle stage; (2) the role of bio-based plastic food packaging in circular resource management systems and the product disposal life cycle stage; and (3) an optimal bio-based plastic food packaging application in regard to prioritising end-of-life treatment. While there are dedicated publications on the role of packaging in a circular economy, circular packaging design, packaging waste management, and bio-origin plastic applications in food packaging, this article aims to provide an integrated review and recommendations on the best bio-based plastic food packaging material selection, applications based on a circular economy, and scenarios on waste/resource management that prioritise end-of-life treatment. Three of the current most popular bio-based plastic materials in the flexible and rigid food packaging categories were selected: starch blends, bio-PE, and PLA for flexible food packaging and PLA, bio-PET, and bio-PE for rigid packaging. This article highlights the fact that a smart material choice in the circular design strategy is a key factor that has a direct impact on the last packaging life cycle stage (disposal), and concludes that bio-based plastic materials are a way to close the food packaging loop, either by re-use or recycling. This article also provides recommendations on the best bio-based plastic food packaging material selection, and applications based on the circular economy and waste management that prioritise end-of-life treatment. The research results indicate a research niche for the application of re-usable biodegradable materials in food packaging. The findings of this research allow product designers and packaging companies to advance the understanding of the most efficient bio-based plastic food packaging integration into the circular economy via decision making of product material choice and end-of-life treatment. Based on the results of this article, scholars can develop new themes for further research.