Compostable Laminate Packs Provide a Solution to Changing Waste Regulations

Coffee packs

In 2014, a new EU Packaging Directive is set to come into force, which will place the responsibility for ensuring that ‘packaging is not excessive for the purpose intended and is suitable for recycling, energy recovery or composting’ firmly with the packaging producer. The emphasis is that waste minimisation and recovery should be built into the package at its design stage, to ensure resource efficiencies, as well as protecting products.

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, claims waste plastics packaging material in the EU15 increased from 9.9 million tonnes in 1998 to 13.1 million tonnes in 2008, representing an increase in share from 17.9% to 21.6%. Of this, 40% of municipal waste was landfilled, 20% incinerated, 23% recycled and 17% composted.

Packaging is recycled if it can be collected, transported and cleaned using less energy and resources than would be used to make virgin raw materials. Packaging made from thin layers of mixed materials or plastic film is very difficult to recycle.

There have been some technological processes developed, but these are a limited resource which means that the most popular method of disposal of laminated packaging formats is still incineration. The reason is that it is possible to get some energy value from this type of packaging, even though it is essentially burning materials made from a finite raw material resource.

Innovia Films and Sappi Fine Paper Europe recognise that the best end-of-life options for flexible laminates are either industrial / home composting or ultimately anaerobic digestion, which turns waste into a useful energy source. They realised that by combining their separate compostable substrates, Innovia Films’ NatureFlex™ and Sappi’s Algro® Nature, they could offer the packaging industry an alternative combining traditional technical properties and equivalent packaging performance.

Antoine de Forton, business development manager at Sappi, claims: "Many European countries have realised that home composting is a viable opportunity for managing some of the domestic household waste stream. It empowers home owners to take responsibility for their own degradable waste. Packs made from compostable packaging such as the Innovia Films and Sappi solution makes this task much easier".

Both NatureFlex™ and Algro® Nature are manufactured from renewable resources, wood sourced from managed forests. These cellulose-based products have been fully tested and independently certified to be compostable both in home and industrial environments by "OK Compost Home" certification by Vinçotte, and DIN E13432 certification by DIN CERTCO. In addition, they are food contact approved.

Innovia Films offers a range of NatureFlex™ flexible packaging films that provide a moisture barrier that can be tailored to meet the requirements of the product to be packed and an excellent gas barrier. They also offer enhanced print and conversion capability, as well as high seal integrity. Their inherent anti-static and thermal stability aids the lamination process to Sappi’s flexible packaging papers and other biopolymers for more complex laminate structures.

Sappi Fine Paper Europe has used its expertise in manufacturing flexible packaging papers to become the first and only paper producer to offer home compostable papers for packaging. Algro® Nature is a one side coated, glossy paper and Leine® Nature is its uncoated equivalent. Both offer the advantage of using vegetable-based coating ingredients instead of a traditional paper / oil-based materials. This reduces the papers’ environmental impact and carbon footprint. These papers are available in weights of between 40g/m2 and 80 g/m2. They can be used in such applications as confectionery or snack wrappers, soup pouches, sugar sachets, pharmaceutical sachets, etc. Packaging using these papers will meet the EU Packaging Directive, which comes into force in 2014.

Using these technically proven products both Innovia Films and Sappi set out to develop sample pack structures to show end users in the food, confectionery and home and personal care industries what is possible. Their first pack development was a stand-up pouch which received a lot of interest at the various exhibitions it was displayed. Taking this concept further, a new selection of pack types has been created to demonstrate versatility in application and formats, while representing viable laminate replacements for oil based paper / polyolefin laminates.

Mark Hunter Purvis, director at Opus 21 Digital, confirmed: "We found the supplied substrate very easy to print on to, it was also very easy to heat-seal and form into pouches, bags and flow wrap packs."

Paul Barker, Innovia Films product manager, Cello says: "The combination of these natural materials provide the essential barrier requirements of each of the product groups represented by these prototype coffee, snack bar and single serve drink packs. In real applications this packaging would facilitate the disposal of the contents with the packaging into either home or industrial composting environments."

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