Manufacturing paper consumes more energy and water and emits more greenhouse gases than plastics. It also contributes to deforestation, which, ironically, was a reason that plastic bags became so popular in the first place. But despite science-based evidence to the contrary, paper largely is seen by the public at large as an environmentally preferable substitute for plastics. To retain customers and attract new ones, brand owners are left to find ways to make paper perform as well as plastics, which has been a challenge. Paper straws immediately come to mind. There are also a number of food-contact packaging applications, where paper simply lacks the required properties. Often, a polymer-based liner is needed, which most consumers are unaware of, that makes recycling of the container that much more difficult. BASF has one answer to this dilemma: It has added a grade to its ecovio portfolio that is compostable in both home and industrial environments. It reportedly matches the properties of plastic packaging while advancing the circular economy.
Extrusion coating grade ecovio 70 PS14H6 has excellent barrier properties against liquids, fats, grease, and mineral oil, according to BASF, and is stable at temperatures from -40° to 100°C. The material adheres to many types of paper and board.
Ecovio materials, which are a blend of biodegradable PBAT polymers and renewables, are certified to be compostable in accordance with DIN EN 13432 and other standards, said BASF.
Claiming that the new grade performs better than currently available biopolymers, BASF also notes that additional barrier properties can be achieved via mono- or multi-layer extrusion without adhesives. Coating line speeds reportedly are comparable to polyethylene, and similar coating weights, including very thin layers, are possible.
“There is a big trend in society — in some countries driven by legislation — to move from pure plastic to paper-based packaging, which in itself is not suitable for a lot of different foods, especially with liquid or fatty ingredients,” said Michael Bernhard Schick, who handles global marketing of biopolymers at BASF. “We offer a strong and at the same time sustainable packaging solution for hot, frozen, or chilled food. Ecovio 70 PS14H6, thus, combines excellent technical performance with the decisive added benefit of home-compostability for paper packaging, supporting organic recycling of food waste.”
Applications cited by BASF include cups and pots for dairy products and frozen goods, sandwich and cereal bar wrappers, snack bowls and trays, and to-go cups for hot or cold drinks and soups.
A lot of time and effort has gone into researching and developing a material that, compostability aside, does the same thing a recyclable plastic has done for decades. The motivation is clear — consumers and legislators want to move away from plastics — and brand owners are merely following the zeitgeist. And the customer is always right. Right?