One of the biggest challenges in creating biodegradable material for dairy packaging is the need to withstand thermal treatments such as sterilization and pasteurization, according to the Technological Institute of Plastic (AIMPLAS).
The organisation is coordinating a €1m research project called Biobottle, which is being carried out by seven companies and technological centers.
Biobottle is developing material for biodegradable packaging, which doesn’t need to be separated from the organic waste at the end of its life.
'Especially interesting for dairy industry'
Chelo Escrig, technical coordinator, Biobottle, told FoodProductionDaily.com the project is focusing on dairy packaging, because European countries are the biggest consumers of dairy products.
However, recycling rates of packaging, principally high density polyethylene bottles, are low. In addition, high temperature washing is needed in recycling to eliminate dairy odours.
“This material is completely recyclable, but, only between 10% and 15% of it is recycled, according to data in 2012,” said Escrig.
“Besides, these packages can only be used once, and a big volume of waste is generated. So, we think the elaboration of packages which can be thrown away when used, along with the rest of the organic waste to be managed in compostable plants, is especially interesting for the dairy industry.”
Meeting properties of conventional packaging
The project is working on developing a material for making big multi-layer bottles, for milk or milkshakes, and mono-layer bottles for smaller probiotic products. These materials need to be biodegradable, and resistant to sterilization and pasteurization.
“We are working on developing biodegradable material suitable to be used to manufacture the different types of packages, such as pouches, bottles, etc,” said Escrig.
“The idea is to modify (using reactive extrusion) the biodegradable material in the market to improve characteristics. This includes processability in conventional extrusion equipment, thermal resistance, and functionality - without changing the organoleptic requirements of the packed product.”
The project has defined the requirements for packaging, and is now selecting material to work on.
Escrig hopes work from the project will translate to other food packaging.
Biobottle is a European Project in the Seventh Framework Programme, with a fund of €1m. Seven companies and technological centers from five different countries are working with AIMPLAS.