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Developments in plastic packaging that help increase the shelf life of food and drink

Developments in plastic packaging that help increase the shelf life of food and drink

Several developments have been introduced or are underway in plastics packaging that will aid in increasing shelf life of food and drinks.
Scientists are developing a new packaging freshness coating for plastic packaging they say could help increase the shelf life of food and drink. Researchers at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, have developed a transparent coating made from a combination of clay and polymers that can be applied to plastic packaging materials. This, they say, could help keep products fresher for longer - for example, helping fizzy drinks and sodas stay bubbly for months longer than usual. It will give consumers tastier, longer lasting foods and help boost the food packaging industry. The packaging coating combines montmorillonite clay particles - a soil ingredient used to make bricks - with a variety of polymers. Viewed under the microscope, it looks like bricks and mortar, leading the scientists to use the term �nano bricks' to describe it. The researchers say the film - which is invisible to the naked eye, being thousands of times thinner than a human hair - is not only more cheaper than existing packaging coatings but is also more effective. Adding the �nano bricks' film to packaging researchers found they were able to block oxygen more effectively than silicon oxide coatings used in packaging now. The use of metallized plastics - or plastics with a thin covering of metal or foil - to preserve foods allows oxygen to enter the food packaging, which increases the rate at which the contents inside spoil. The research found that the �nano bricks' packaging coating was 100 times less permeable than normal packaging. Using the film on plastic bottles helps slow the loss of carbon dioxide, helping sodas and other fizzy drinks stay bubbly for longer. Potential development areas for the �nano bricks' packaging could be to extend the shelf life of portable foods for the armed forces. Applications include development to block sunlight and claimed that it could also be used in electronics, sporting goods and even tires.
The new film combines particles of montmorillonite clay, a soil ingredient used to make bricks, with a variety of polymer materials. The resulting film is about 70% clay and contains a small amount of polymer, making it more eco-friendly than current plastics. The film is less than 100 nanometers thick and completely transparent to the naked-eye. When layered onto existing plastic packaging, it adds strength and provides an improved barrier to oxygen. Lab studies have demonstrated the film is 100 times less permeable to oxygen than existing silicon oxide coatings, which means it�s likely to be a better oxygen barrier than a metal coating, whose permeability is similar to that of silicon oxide.
During the period of 2010-15 packaged food and drink consumption in Europe is projected to grow by 2% pa, to exceed an annual volume of 864 bln packaging units by 2015 (80 bln more than in 2010, as per Pira international. Several developments have been introduced or are underway in plastics packaging that will aid in increasing shelf life of food and drinks. Food and drinks packaging is in a period of rapid change. As per Business Insights, glass is the most common material used for new products launched with food safety packaging and this has been relatively stable over the period 2005 to 2008. The next most common material in this category is plastic. Soft drinks (23.5%), took the highest share of food and drinks launched in innovative packaging between 2005 and 2008, closely followed by alcoholic drinks (23%). Nanotechnology, interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, and edible packaging are developing innovations that are likely to have an impact on the future of food and drinks packaging. The most commonly used packaging materials in new food and drinks product launches in 2008 in were Plastic (33.2%), glass (11.7%) and cardboard (11.5%).
 
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