Is Smart Packaging in our Future?

An article released out of Norway this week highlights how researchers believe that the packaging of the future may be able to contain substances that kill or get rid of unwanted bacteria in the packages contents.

Image Source: Nofima

The researchers at the forefront of the project are investigating packaging potential at the Nofima Food Research Institute in Norway. The institute has created its own food packaging program which is being supported by the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products (FFL).

This new and growing area of research is being called biopackaging. It is studying how every year, household product large amounts of food waste and how that waste can be recycled into packaging.

“Today, biomaterials are mainly used for fruit, vegetables and dry food products (apart from fibre-based materials such as cardboard). Our goal should be to use more food waste for packaging. There is a huge potential here, but also many challenges,” says research scientist Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen, who is heading the program at Nofima.

One way to test the biomaterials for biopackaging is to find out if it can be replaced with traditional plastics. With a great deal of research and innovation still needed to garner success for more types of packaging, Nofima is currently turning to salmon and chicken packaging for testing.

“The greatest challenge is that biomaterials often have poor damp barriers, which in turn can affect the oxygen barrier. We recently tested the packing of salmon and chicken in starch-based packaging. The results show that the food products had a better colour towards the end of storage compared with the traditional materials, but they dried out. The reason is that the biomaterial absorbs moisture,” says Mr. Pettersen.

If proven successful, there will need to be major changes in waste handling and recycling to really get the full effects of bioplastics across to consumers.

Nofima is also testing the use of products like cinnamon, oregano, or lemon, on meat different meats and how it affects the shelf life of meat products and prevents the growth of bacteria.

“Some substances contain compounds that prevent bacteria from growing quickly. These antimicrobial substances can be spread on the packaging or mixed into the plastic material before it is remoulded into the correct shape. In or on the packaging, these substances make themselves useful by breaking down or preventing the growth of the unwanted bacteria. We have tested a selection of potential antimicrobial substances that are extracted from cinnamon or oregano, for example, and used in the packaging,” explains Mr Pettersen.

So far, the researchers have seen success when testing the antimicrobial substances found in cinnamon on plastic packaging of chicken.

“Compared with packaging without these agents, the antimicrobial substances helped to reduce the speed of bacterial growth at the start of the storage period. This is a good basis for further work on similar packaging solutions,” says Mr Pettersen.

For the complete article, click here

Source: Nofima

Sustainable Packaging Flourishes Despite A Weak Economy

Most sectors of packaging have been taking a hit during these tough economic times, but not sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging has experienced positive growth over the past two years and it’s not expected to slow down. According to “Sustainable (Green) Packaging: A Global Strategic Business Report”, the green packaging market should to be worth $142 billion by 2015.

What sectors of packaging are the key developers of sustainable packaging? Cosmetics and personal care, food and beverage, shipping, and healthcare packaging have all embraced green packaging to a large degree.

There are key driving forces that account for the growth of sustainable packaging. Growing concerns of the environment around the globe is number one. Also, stricter government regulations are making it mandatory for companies to adhere to sustainable practices and production. Other drivers include increased awareness about recycling of packaging wastes and companies cutting costs by using recycled and reusable materials in manufacturing.

The United States and Europe currently cover more than 70 percent of the global green packaging market. Recycled material is the most important packaging category in the US, accounting for 90 percent of the total demand.

The fastest growing region for green packaging is expected to be Asia-Pacific with 10 percent annual growth over the next 5 years. The fastest growing segment of the packaging industry are biodegradables with the highest demand coming from bioplastics.

The Future of Packaging, Part 1

Like many other industries, the packaging industry has suffered through the current recession. Sustainable packaging, however, has showed impressive growth from 2008 to 2009, and has been immune to the economic downturn. Sustainability has helped companies cut costs and reduce packaging waste by using recycled and reusable materials. Europe and the U.S. represent the largest regions for sustainable packaging, together accounting for more than 70 percent of the global market.

Sustainable packaging is projected to reach $142.42 billion globally by 2015, according to a report from Global Industry Analysts (GIA). Drivers for growth include increased awareness about environmental hazards related to disposal and recycling of packaging wastes, government initiatives to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, and stringent regulations.

As eco-friendly packaging becomes mainstream, many companies are implementing green packaging as a marketing tool. Manufacturers also are under pressure to use environment-friendly materials, and adopt methods that require low-energy consumption and reduce environmental impact of packaging.

In terms of market segmentation, recycled material accounts for the largest packaging category, contributing nearly 90 percent to the total demand in the United States. However, biodegradables represent the fastest growing segment in the packaging industry. Biodegradable materials are easily decomposed by microorganisms, and reduce packaging waste, while the materials preserve food products and sustain freshness. Among biodegradables, bioplastics are garnering the greatest attention in the green packaging market. As questions loom about the limitations of bioplastics, the demand continues to swell, presenting an opportunistic market as bioplastics evolve.

Markets using sustainable packaging include cosmetics and personal care, food and beverage, food service and shipping markets, and healthcare. As an example, the study cites more than 600 new beauty products with a green label were introduced in Europe alone during the past two years, driven by consumer preference for eco-friendly plastic packaging materials.

27 percent of products at major U.S. retailers are estimated to have sustainable packaging in 2010, and by 2015, this figure is projected to reach 37 percent.

To be continued…..

Check out: Green Packaging 365

Algae-based Plastics Could Be Just Around the Corner

Cereplast, Inc. designs and manufactures proprietary starch-based, renewable plastics created from breakthrough technology. They have recently announced that by the end of the year, they will be making plastic from algae. The algae-based resins carry the potential of replacing 50% or more of petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins. Developing alternative feedstock unrelated to fossil fuels and to the food chains is the next ‘frontier’ for bioplastics and Cereplast is aggressively staying on the forefront.

Cereplast CEO says the algae is close enough to the starches that the company already turns into plastics such as corn, wheat, and tapioca. The problem is not the science, it’s the demand. Getting enough of the green stuff to produce mass quantities is the challenge that the Cereplast team is facing. Difficulties with growing and processing algae cheaply has kept it just out of reach for making it a pliable bio-plastic alternative. The process includes finding and cultivating a precise strain of algae from thousands, harvesting and drying, and then extracting the oils from the plant in a cost-effective manner.

What could this mean? In the not-so-distant future, the algae plastics could be and integral part of a trillion dollar plastics industry. Bill Francis, President of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which documents the effects of stray plastic on the world’s oceans, is optimistic on algae’s future in the plastics marketplace. “I do believe there will be a time when we look back and say, ‘Oh yeah, that was the plastic age”.

Algae-based plastics could be a huge breakthrough for the green packaging industry depending on how the product performs when used in different plastic manufacturing processes. Up to this point, there has been a lot of limitations with bioplastics.