The Need for Repulpable, Recyclable, and Compostable Packaging/Barrier Coatings

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stacked paper fiber

Stacked Paper Fiber

Why Do We Need Sustainable Barrier Coatings?

Paper fiber is one of the leading recycled materials in the world. Paper recovery rates are rising but not keeping pace with global fiber demand. In North America a significant amount of fiber from corrugated boxes is not recyclable, repulpable, or compostable. Within the folding carton market, there is a significant share of products containing an extruded PE or PET film barrier layer which is not recyclable. While consumer participation in the recycle of paper and plastics has increased over the last decade, a significant amount of paper, packaging, and plastic products are ending up in landfills and the environment. As public awareness, environmental legislation, and landfill tipping fees increase, sustainable barrier coatings for fibrous products that are biodegradable and/or compostable are required to reduce the environmental and landfill impact of plastics and non-recyclable paper products.

To meet the growing desire of consumers for more environmentally friendly packaging, companies have begun seeking more sustainable materials (e.g., cellulose fibers) to replace plastic or PET extruded paperboard products with products such as barrier coated paperboard and thermomoulded single-use carry out containers. The change from plastic to paper is certainly a progressive change toward environmental friendliness, however, barrier performance and costs pose challenges which are limiting the application and use of such products. With regards to performance, natural fibers do not provide comparable performance to plastic in applications requiring barrier performance (i.e., oil, grease, oxygen, water). As paper products are permeable, they provide poor barrier performance and require the addition of additives and/or coatings to help seal or functionalize the surface.

How Have We Been Trying to Fix This?

For many years, fluoropolymers have been used to increase oil and grease barrier performance of paper, board and fiber-based products. Flouropolymers work by lowering the surface energy of the fibers preventing liquids from wetting, penetrating and wicking into the fibers. Due to their ability to create a non-wetting surface, fluoropolymers have been an essential tool to increase the oil and grease resistance of fibrous products. However, recent legislation to eliminate the use of these polymers has required the fibrous product manufactures to seek alternatives.

Why Isn’t This The Solution?

The concern with floruopolymers is the result of studies which have found these materials to be bio persistent. The most progressive piece of legislature advocating the disuse of fluorochemicals has recently been passed by Washington State; HB-2658 which bans the intentional use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging made from plant fibers. California’s Prop 65 also requires PFOS and PFOA to be listed on packaging, bringing to light the hazard these materials might have on consumers health.

What is The Real Solution?

SNP’s water-based barrier coatings do not contain fluoropolymers. They provide excellent oil and grease resistance with varying levels of water resistance.

There is the opportunity for all-natural environmentally safe materials to replace plastics and fluoromaterials and SNP Inc. is helping lead the R&D efforts to bring markets closer to finding replacements for fluoropolymers and extruded plastic products. SNP is continuing to seek all-natural alternatives to meet the challenges the paper and packaging industry is facing, and will continue to do so in an effort to progress a truly positive change for this world. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you meet your sustainability and performance goals.

Read More:

Follow-up article “How to beat the Compostablility Requirements” or “Is your package really compostable?”

-This article will discuss the compostability standards and the ability to continue to use non-compotable, non-renewable, non-biodegradable materials within products while still maintaining a “compostable” certification.


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