Barrier-coated paperboard: an alternative to plastic tray packaging
Much work is underway to find renewable alternatives to plastic; but in the meantime, packaging solutions exist that combine a renewable material such as paperboard with a small amount of plastic. This solution could reduce climate impact by over 80% compared with traditional all-plastic packaging.
One common type of food packaging is the plastic tray, which is then sealed for its onward journey to the consumer. Instead of making the entire tray of plastic, an easy alternative is to replace the plastic with a composite material consisting of renewable paperboard with a thin plastic layer that supplies the barrier properties needed to protect against moisture, grease and aromas. The stiffness and strength required for the construction comes from the paperboard’s wood fibres, and the plastic’s barrier properties provide the functional finishing touch.
“Plastic is an excellent material for packaging. It is very formable and provides the seal we need in food packaging with high hygiene requirements,” explained Stefan Söderberg, Sales Manager New Products at Iggesund Paperboard. His company has recently launched Inverform, a composite material that is designed to replace all-plastic trays and therefore reduce the trays’ climate impact.
According to Johan Granås, Sustainability Director at Iggesund Paperboard, the climate impact of its paperboard is about 90% less than that of plastic. “By combining paperboard with a thin plastic barrier, a packaging’s total climate impact can be radically reduced compared with that of plastic packaging.”
Söderberg said the company has been using bioplastics for about a decade in its manufacture of plastic-coated paperboard. “In production terms they’re generally acknowledged to be hard to handle, they have more limited applications than traditional plastics and they’re also more expensive. Advances in bioplastics are constantly being made, because many companies are looking for a fossil-free bioplastic with properties that allow it to function smoothly in production — both for us as a material manufacturer and for those who manufacture the final packaging.”
While waiting for the materials manufacturers to find new, fossil-free barriers, the market is demanding packaging made of paperboard coated with either traditional plastic or bioplastic.
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