Newly developed and easily recyclable oxygen-barrier films from Nova Chemicals Corp. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) mean food companies no longer need to make a choice between high-performance barrier packaging and recyclability. Products such as meat, cheese, nuts, and many snack foods that have traditionally required rigid or non-recyclable mixed-material packaging can now be sold in high-performance, recyclable flexible packaging that’s compatible with the #2 HDPE recycling stream.
The structure design expands on Nova Chemicals’ recyclable film designs, which have included structures for moisture-sensitive applications such as dry foods and mixes, frozen foods and confectionery. Both film recipes are certified to carry the “In store drop-off” package label from How2Recycle, a rapidly growing program to help consumers understand end-of-life recycling options.
“This is a win for customers, the industry and the environment” says Mike Cappelli, food packaging market manager, Nova Chemicals. “It speaks to the consumer desire for lightweight, economical and sustainable packaging.”
It can be used in range of flexible packaging formats including stand-up pouch, pillow pouch and flow-wrapped packs. The addition of zippers or fitments can customize the packaging for single-serve or multiuse applications.
The development was three years in the making.
“Our biggest challenge was to develop a recyclable package that runs well on pouch-making equipment while offering the end-use performance and cost that the supply chain expects,” Mike Cappelli, food packaging market manager, Nova Chemicals, tells PlasticsToday. “We were able to strike the right balance with resin selection and film design. Pouches and other packages made with our film design provide suitable shelf life for oxygen and moisture sensitive foods, run on existing converting equipment and are price competitive with other structures in the market.”
A drop-in replacement
The structure is not only different for the company, it’s fundamentally distinctive from other alternatives, too.
“PET, PP, or Nylon are typically used to provide stiffness and printability in mixed-material laminates,” explains Cappelli. “Our film structure utilizes a combination of Nova Chemicals polyethylenes that provide comparable stiffness and processability. There are other polyethylene components in the structure that provide good seal properties and enhance product shelf life, package integrity and aesthetics.
“The key to the recyclability of our structure is the elimination of PET, PP, and Nylon—mixed-material films containing these polymers generally cannot be recycled. The PE-based film structure can incorporate a small amount of other non-PE material to enhance its properties while retaining compatibility with #2 HDPE recycling streams.”
According to Cappelli, interest in the How2Recycle barrier pouch structure has been “exceptional.”
“While flexible packaging has done a tremendous job in reducing material packaging usage while providing food protection and safety, traditional mixed material packages can't be easily recycled. This can negatively impact consumer perception of the packaging and the food brand, and adds to landfill waste. With our film structure designs, food companies don't have to choose between performance and recyclability—they can have both. It speaks to food companies’ desire to meet consumer demand for sustainable packaging alternatives without compromising performance or increasing cost.”
PlasticsToday asked about the films’ current status and upcoming market opportunities.
“Currently, the oxygen barrier structure is being tested—including field verifications of recyclability—by numerous film extruders, pouch makers, and food companies,” responds Cappelli. “The moisture-barrier film structure was recently specified in our first commercial application and is also being tested. We have a number of partners and are looking to add more.”
Customers can work with Nova Chemicals experts at its Centre for Performance Applications to collaborate on film structures for their specific applications. Opened in 1985, the Centre one year ago celebrated a grand reopening after a building expansion and extensive investments in new extrusion, converting, and lab equipment. That included the installation of a new Effytec Model HB-15 horizontal form-fill-seal (HFFS) pouch maker, which permits the creation of prototype packages for on-site testing, according to Cappelli. “The customer-centric facility, which provides an environment conducive to collaboration, idea generation, and innovation, is dedicated to product and application development. We regularly conduct trials and create prototype structures and packages at the Centre to help our customers bring better designed, better performing products to market more quickly.”