PHA: plastic the way nature intended?

The global spotlight on the environmental damage caused by single-use plastics is driving business to consider the sometimes ruinous impact of products, processes and packaging. Breakthrough innovation specialists Cambridge Consultants today reveals a vision for the use of PHA bioplastics in convenience food packaging. This is the first stage in Cambridge Consultants’ wider strategy to introduce sustainable bioplastics into the product design toolkit, across a wide range of industries.

To demonstrate the potential of PHA bioplastics in the food service industry, Cambridge Consultants has designed a range of biodegradable plastic products, all served up on a bioplastic tray. Bioplastics – plastics which are bio-derived, biodegradable or both – are an increasingly viable technical alternative to conventional polymers. New industrial processes mean that bioplastics can be produced from post-consumer waste, converting environmentally damaging waste into a valuable resource to be used as a feedstock for industrial processes.

To date, the uptake of bioplastics in food service has been limited by technical performance at high temperatures, cost and limited supply. Whilst there has been limited introduction of cups for cold beverages made from PLA, a bioplastic derived from cornstarch, these are not suitable for hot drinks. Cambridge Consultants evaluated a range of biopolymers and identified materials which are suitable for use in even the most challenging food applications, such as a single use coffee pod and microwave tray.

Catherine Joce, Sustainability and Circular Economy Lead at Cambridge Consultants said, “for generations there has been a dependency between economic growth and increased resource consumption and emissions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Businesses across all industries are beginning to realise the potential of innovation to improve both profit and sustainability”.

Bioplastics provide convenience at the point of disposal. All items in this set are designed to decompose in industrial composting facilities, meaning they can be disposed of alongside food waste – eliminating the need for sorting, washing and separate bins.

PHA bioplastics represent one example of many radical sustainable innovations which are decoupling business success from environmental impact. Cambridge Consultants works with multinational businesses to deliver step-change improvements in sustainability through cutting edge technology. The global bioeconomy is growing rapidly and Cambridge Consultants is fully invested in its future success. Using state-of-the-art facilities and techniques, our synthetic biology team fuses expertise in biology, chemistry and engineering to convert research-driven discovery into breakthrough products and services for industries as diverse as consumer products, healthcare and agritech.

Cambridge Consultants will be discussing its vision for bioplastics at World Bio Markets 2018, beginning March 20, 2018. Contact us for more information or to request a meeting.

About PHAs

PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) are biodegradable, readily compostable thermoplastics, produced by microbial fermentation of carbon-based feedstocks. The properties of PHA polymers are customisable, depending on the specific combinations of different monomers incorporated into the polymer chain.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of 750 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston, Seattle, San Francisco (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, energy and wireless communications. For more information, visit:

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2016, the Altran group generated revenues of €2.120bn. With a headcount of more than 30,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit:

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