From Plastic Reduction to Fully Plastic Free Solutions: How Fibre-Based Packaging is Responding to the Challenge
Paper is one the oldest forms of packaging and now has a large role to play in the transition to a post-fossil circular economy. When plastics appeared as an alternative, they took market share from many of the more traditional and natural packaging materials, but this trend is now beginning to reverse. Some of those packaging may be plastic-free according to demanding requirements like the Single Use Packaging Directive (SUPD) but some still needs to use combinations with conventional plastic to reach the right level of barrier performance and to ensure the appropriate protection of packed goods. Such directives have also triggered intensification of the efforts to scale research for using naturally occurring biopolymers as well as coating alternatives which not only derive from renewable resources but also potentially provide improved end of life scenarios.
We will illustrate the topics with three examples:
-Fresh produce packaging solutions that use both a plastic-free tray and plastic-free lid to meet new SUPD requirements in France that ban plastic for such segments. In addition, such packaging can demonstrate an improvement in recyclability as well as climate impact both directly at the packaging level and in terms of providing extended shelf life to packed products vs. benchmark plastic packaging.
-Multipack solutions that are plastic-free and that can also answer concerns in some SUPD implementation measures, for example in Spain, where the use of plastic in small packs, like plastic rings, is discouraged as they too often accidentally end up in the environment and are not suitable for recycling. Likewise, the different aspects of shifting to such solutions will be discussed with a systems perspective.
-Highlights of current collaborative research on conventional plastic-free barriers including proteins, cellulose derivates, etc. as well as other approaches for surface treatment will be shared as an outlook on potential future packaging trends.