THE APPLICABILITY OF BIOPLASTICS FOR PACKING FOOD

PROJECT REQUEST

The last few years both certain packaging producers as well as research institutions made a lot of effort to improve the functionality of bioplastics via amongst others laminating, coating and blending different bioplastics. The goal of this project was to examine the applicability of these new combinations to pack different food, from products with a short preservability (e.g. fresh meat) to products with a long preservability (e.g. biscuits). The focus was on flexible bio based packages (foil packages, top foils and light thermoformed packages) for MAP applications. At the same time, the preservability of food was evaluated via different microbiologic and chemic parameters. Previous to these preserving tests a chart was developed giving an overview of different parameters, relevant for packing food (permeability, mechanic resistance, seal characteristics), for the different materials. The printability and migration tests followed the preserving tests. Furthermore, case studies were implemented within food companies in the last phase of the project to evaluate the performance of the researched bioplastics materials in a production environment (e.g. compatibility with packing machines). The working programme was as follows:

  • Characterisation of the different supplied packing materials
  • Influence of the selected bio packages on the preservability of different food
  • Printability tests: in the project it was checked if different contact surfaces can be printed and what the quality of the printing is
  • Migration tests: in the project it was checked what the global migration is of different bioplastics materials
  • Evaluation of different materials in the production environment

RESULTS

  • A big variation in foil characteristics was found (high and low barrier materials, elastic and less elastic foils, …).
  • The tested bioplastics showed enough gas barrier (O2 and CO2) to maintain the preservability under protective atmosphere, but the moist barrier turned out to be a limiting factor for the preservability of some products (mainly for dry products with a long preservability).
  • The different contact surfaces (cellulose and PLA) could be printed and the printing was of good quality. Nevertheless, the PLA surface turned out to be very receptive for solvents (quantity residue (too) high).
  • Most foils that were used were already conform the migration legislation.
  • The tested foils moved fluently in most machines (horizontal and vertical flow pack), but a good improvement of the sealing characteristics (pressure, temperature and time) is necessary.

In general it can be concluded that bioplastics have potential as packing materials, as well for MAP packaging, in the food industry and that some are already used today. Nevertheless, some adaptations are still necessary before bioplastics can really compete with conventional plastics. In the first place this concerns the price, which is higher than that of conventional packing materials. Besides that, the moist barrier needs to be improved for certain packing applications. Other considerations are the sealing characteristics and the fragility of some bioplastics packages.

PROJECT FILE

Involved research institutions: nutriFOODchem, LFMPF, Packaging Technology Centre, Hogeschool Gent, BVI, VKC

Term: September 1st, 2010 – August 31st, 2012

Pack4Food contact person:

Peter.ragaert@pack4food.be or +32 (0)9 264 99 30

EVENTS AS PART OF THIS PROJECT

Seminar: processing and applicability of bioplastics for packing food (March 26th, 2013)


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