A leading carton board manufacturer, based in Edenbridge, has contributed to the development of a seaweed derived coating that could dramatically reduce the amount of non-biodegradable packaging sent to landfill each year.
Working with companies from across Europe and Turkey, the Alexir Partnership which employs 150 full-time people split between its manufacturing and design centre in Kent and its co-manufacturing site in Sussex, set out to develop a packaging solution that could provide adequate food protection, while at the same time meeting tough environmental regulations.
Supported by new product development specialist PRA, a Pera Technology Company, Alexir and the consortium members were able to secure a maximum Grant Allocation of just under €1m from the European Commission to develop the coating technology.
Following 21 months of research and development, and the combined efforts of seven packaging and food specialists from across Europe and Turkey, the consortium has created a coating, which is naturally derived, biodegradable, compostable and recyclable – providing an all-round disposal option.
Speaking about the project Steve King, Technical Manager at Alexir, said: “With food packaging waste now reaching an all-time high of 45 million tonnes per year in Europe, we’ve been working towards more sustainable packaging solutions for a number of years now. This latest technology has the potential to provide a step change in the development of sustainable packaging.”
Michael Morris, Project Manager at PRA, said: “Existing packaging has a number of limitations, namely the petrochemical derived polymers which are often used as a base. These not only prevent recycling but are based on oil which is of course expensive. Other coating materials, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are causing health concerns whilst the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste is promoting change. It was therefore clear that a solution needed to not only be found but rapidly progressed towards commercialisation.
“PRA overcame the technical barriers associated with formulating a novel sustainable coating based on seaweed extract and starch.”
The PlantPack packaging project is now in the final three months of its two year timescale. After substantial research the coatings have been applied to both paper and paperboard substrates and preliminary evaluation studies are now determining their performance for selected end-user applications.
The next stage will be to scale-up a number of the coatings to determine their commercial competiveness in comparison to current petroleum derived coatings and suitable disposal options.
The PlantPack consortium consists of seven partners originating from the United Kingdom, Turkey, Poland and Spain:
- Mantrose UK Ltd
- Altin Gida
- The Alexir Partnership
- Yanko SP. Z.o.o
- Seaweed Canarias