Packaging material like plastic
Environmental pollution caused by plastics cannot be suppressed and has become a threat to the existence of living things. Governments and companies in various countries are taking different actions to reduce the amount of plastic use, but it should not be easy to bring dramatic improvements. Since plastic packaging used for food packages can be necessary from the viewpoint of preservation, it is difficult to completely eliminate plastics. While there is a dilemma in plastic, there may have brought rays of hope toward the solution, with the development of “plastic-like” packaging material.
The plastic-like packaging material were unveiled by the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Ltd. (VTT) in April 2020. It was made using cellulose and fatty acids, which are completely renewable substances, and has properties that allow thermoforming*1. In other words, it can be used to refine food packaging just like the plastics used today because it has the property of being formed by heated.
The research of such amazing packaging material is a joint project of VTT, Arla Foods (dairy cooperative), Paulig Group (food and beverage company) and Wipak (packaging company). Not all of potential uses for this substance has been found, and the research is ongoing. The next step in the development process is to produce hundreds of kilograms of material and work with the companies to prototype various packaging. This is for verifying the functionality of the material in industrial processes and in actual use conditions.
According to VTT, “The plastic-like, thermoplastic material is one component of the packaging material by VTT that reached the top spot in the 2018 Ellen MacArthur Foundation competition. An essential part of commercializing that packaging material concept is bringing thermoplastic material into industrial production. In order to achieve thermoplasticity, it must be tailored without significantly affecting its natural properties.”
This project will be closed in May 2021. If the plastic-like packaging material comes to be used, it may be possible to solve the problem of plastic waste. It is interesting to see what kind of results will be achieved at the end of the project.
Thermoforming: A method of forming a sheet or film of a thermoplastic resin (plastic) that has been softened by heating, using a mold.
There are two types of forming:
– Vacuum forming: placing a sheet over a mold to fix, and vacuuming out the air between the sheet and the mold.
– Compressed air forming: pressing the sheet with compressed air.