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Developments in bioploymers aid development of compostable food and beverage packaging

Developments in bioploymers aid development of compostable food and beverage packaging

30-Mar-15

Rising proportion of plastic packaging waste in municipal solid waste has caused increasing environmental concerns, which in turn has led to various regulations targeting reduction the amounts generated. Plastics users are demanding products that reduce environmental impact while improving performance, functionality and value. As a result, significant progress has been made in the development of biodegradable plastics, largely from renewable natural resources, with similar functionality to conventional polymers. These materials offer several environmental benefits and are expected to contribute to sustainability and reduction in the environmental impact associated with disposal of conventional polymers. Several leading food and beverage manufacturers have recently adopted bioplastics packaging that are degradable, compostable and have limited environmental impact.

Sales of single serving portioned coffee machines have increased six-fold since 2008, making up 75% of coffee machines sold in 2014. With global sales of coffee pods in the billions, the result is enough rubbish to circle the planet more than ten times. A new 100% compostable coffee capsule made from thistles has been unveiled by Lavazza, the Italian coffee giant. The patented pod is the first of its kind to be wholly biodegradable; the result of five years of strategic, top-secret research that the company pursued jointly with Italian biopolymer company Novamont and Turin’s Polytechnic University. A single-serving containers when popped into the specialised coffee maker results in an easy pre-dosed brew while the empty shell disappears into the machine’s collection receptacle. The new patented compostable pod represents a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The pod is made from a material called Mater-Bi 3G which is a patented bioplastic produced from wild thistle in three plants in Sardinia and certified for organic recycling according to EU compostable packaging standard EN 13432. The plant-based pod has not affected the flavour and odour. But coffee and scent are intertwined more intricately than just the smell of freshly brewed espresso.

The BIOMAT Research group from the University of the Basque Country has developed a new biodegradable/compostable container for both liquid and solid oily products; agro-industrial by-products have been used and this will contribute towards the sustainable consumption of raw materials and the upgrading of by-products. The container is transparent and, at the same time, provides an excellent barrier for keeping out ultraviolet light and gases like oxygen. Multilayer laminates are generally used as a barrier against gases, yet the product developed has a single layer, which cuts its cost considerably. Furthermore, it can be thermally sealed and is printable. This new container, which acts as a barrier between the food and the outside, moves from being a mere container (passive packaging systems) to performing an active role in the maintenance and even improvement of the quality of the food. The main function of this container is to prolong the useful life of the packaged food through the control of permeation phenomena, either through the use of barrier materials or through the retaining of harmful substances and/or the incorporating of beneficial substances for the packaged food. The demand by consumers for products that do not contain synthetic chemical compounds has led to a growing interest displayed by the food industry in the development of active containers with natural additives. The BIOMAT group has manufactured an active contaainer with natural antioxidant agents for full-fat, fat or semi-fat cheeses, and cheese portions. The packaging makes the product last longer in a good condition, which plays an important role not only in the quality of the product but also in reducing discarded, uneaten food.

Tetra Pak launched a carton made entirely from plant-based, renewable packaging materials - the new Tetra Rex® carton that will be the first in the market to have bio-based low-density polyethylene films and bio-based high-density polyethylene caps, both derived from sugarcane, in addition to Forest Stewardship Council-certified paperboard. Developed in partnership with Braskem, the new Tetra Rex package has become commercially available in early 2015. Tetra Pak customers using the standard 1-L Tetra Rex with TwistCap OSO 34 can easily transfer to the new version without the need for any additional investment or modification to their existing filling machines. The package is manufactured solely from a combination of plastics derived from plants and paperboard. It marks a world first, and signals an important milestone in Tetra Pak’s long-stated commitment to drive ever-stronger environmental performance across all parts of its portfolio and operations. In  these cartons, the low density polyethylene used to create the laminate film for the packaging material and the neck of the opening, together with the high density polyethylene used for the cap, are all derived from sugar cane.

New Frontier Foods, a San Francisco area-based company offering a line of flavoured snack chips made from seaweed, has chosen to use a flexible pouch package for its chips made from Innovia Films' NatureFlex™ bio-based packaging. Derived from sustainable wood pulp, NatureFlex is certified compostable and is said to offer excellent barriers to oxygen and moisture. The packaging guards against moisture vapor and provides a high barrier to oxygen necessary to extend shelf life. NatureFlex™ is a range of speciality packaging films developed by Innovia Films to offer packaging material options that give strong environmental support towards increasing consumer demand for more ‘environmentally friendly packaging. These bio-films are based strongly on renewable resources (wood-pulp from managed plantations) and are certified to the European (EN13432), American (ASTM D6400) and Australian (AS4736) norms for compostable packaging. In addition, the majority of grades have been certified by Vinçotte to the OK Compost Home standard for home composting and certain grades have been proven to biodegrade in a waste-water environment. Further testing has proven that most NatureFlex™ grades are also suitable for anaerobic digestion. These films use novel heat seal-resins on each side. They are static free and offer a super wide heat seal range for outstanding machine performance. The films offer good gas barrier properties and the coatings can be tailored to provide varying degrees of moisture barrier, depending on the needs of the wrapped product.

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