Compostable packaging taped
Used plastic wrappings and containers make good fuel if incinerated but are also dumped in huge quantities on landfill sites.
Researchers are developing a compostable packaging tape that can be disposed of more cheaply and ultimately creates less waste.
"An alternative is composting that costs half as much as landfill disposal," says Dr Ulrich Wesselmann, managing director of LogoTape, a company that manufactures self-adhesive tape products.
His company has teamed up with researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen to develop a biodegradable packaging tape that is made mainly from renewable resources.
If oil prices continue to rise and manufacturing costs can be brought down, it will be possible to sell the 'organic' tape for about the same price as conventional products.
The compostable tape is designed to meet the same requirements as present-day packaging materials - mechanical properties, initial adhesive force and tear resistance.
Other requirements include durability and printability. Unfortunately, the compostability requirement is not immediately compatible with many other technical properties.
For instance, the tape has to be highly resistant while in use, but break down rapidly as soon as it is thrown on the compost heap.
The tape is particularly appropriate for use when the rest of the packaging material is also biodegradable, allowing the whole unit to be disposed of without separating individual materials.
The researchers have developed a granulate for a compostable film in collaboration with a private company, FKuR-Kunststoff GmbH.
The material has met with interest by manufacturers of polyethylene film, because it offers comparable mechanical properties. A further advantage for the plastics processing industry is that the film, which consists of a combination of polylactic acid and polyester, can be processed in the same way as conventional blown film.
Under normal conditions, the composted film breaks down to half its weight within about four weeks.
The compostable film is already being marketed under the name Bio-Flex 219F. The biodegradable packaging tape will be available from do-it-yourself stores next year.
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