Bio-based and biodegradable packaging for a petroleum-free world

In the face of environmental challenges, we urgently need to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly petroleum. Fortunately, the packaging industry now has a range of alternative bio-based and biodegradable solutions.

 

Bio-based food packaging 

    Bio-based plastic: definition

    According to the NF EN 16575 standard, a bio-based product is:

  • Wholly or partly derived from biomass
  • Of animal or plant origin
  • Mainly derived from agricultural or forestry co-products

 

What are some potential solutions for switching to petroleum-free packaging?

 

  • Recyclable paper and cardboard

Paper/cardboard is made from cellulose. This material is therefore the main example of bio-based packaging and has the advantage of being highly recyclable. There has also been an increase in its use since the use of plastic secondary packaging for fruit and vegetables was banned in January 2022.

Examples: Greaseproof paper and cardboard for takeaway food, biscuit and chocolate packaging, etc.

 

  • PLA

Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a polyester-type biopolymer of plant origin produced via the lactic fermentation of a sugar.

This sugar is generally corn starch, but it can also be extracted from sugar cane, wheat or beetroot.

It is currently the best-known and most widely used bio-based plastic.

Examples: Thermoformed PLA trays for packaging foods with a short shelf life. PLA yoghurt cups.

 

  • Other bio-based materials and innovations

There are other bio-based plastics, some of which are also biodegradable: these include PHAs and PBS.

Innovation also plays an important role in the search for new bio-based polymers, as any material derived from biomass can be used: microalgae, lignin, tannins, fatty acids, milk proteins, etc.

 

The advantages of bio-based solutions

 

  • Reducing our dependence on petroleum

Petroleum-based polymers consume 44 million tonnes of petroleum every year in Europe alone!

 

 

Unlike fossil fuels, the use of biomass was an integral part of a sustainable world – a world from which we departed!

Source: The conversation 

 

Extending the use of bio-based materials would therefore avoid the need to use petroleum and would provide the possibility of a plastics economy that would be less dependent on petroleum prices, while at the same time reducing the resource’s payback period.

 

  • Using renewable resources

Bio-based materials are renewable, meaning that they can be regenerated for new uses on a human time scale. Of course, to be virtuous, the exploitation of bio-based resources must be sustainable and rational and must not lead to deforestation.

 

The recent “ReShaping Plastics” study has shaken up the plastics industry, showing that the measures taken to recycle and reduce the use of certain single-use plastics will not achieve the targets set.

In addition to recycling and reuse, the use of bio-based materials as a substitute for petroleum-based materials is an obvious solution, particularly for packaging.

Source: https://plasticseurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/SYSTEMIQ-ReShapingPlastics-April2022.pdf

 

Evidence of the toxicity of microplastics

Scientific evidence of the toxicity of microplastics is beginning to emerge. Some studies suggest, among other things, that:

  • polystyrenemicroplastics reduce the viability of cells, move around the body, modify the behaviour of mice, and change immune markers in the liver and brain after short-term exposure
  • plastic particles “tend to elicit multiple reproductive consequences in a variety of organisms, leading to the decline of female fertility and the developmental anomalies of offspring”
  • exposure to microplastics may be linked to certain cancers. If you would like to find out more, please refer to the following sources: 

 

https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/news/microplastics-can-lead-to-behavioral-changes-in-mice

https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/news/researchers-detect-microplastics-in-human-semen-and-heart

https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/news/two-studies-associate-microplastic-exposure-with-cancer

 

Biodegradable food packaging

What plastics are biodegradable?

 

  • PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates)

PHAs are biodegradable and are obtained via the bacterial fermentation of sugars (generally starch) or lipids, i.e. vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil.

Example: Cosmetics manufacturer RIMAN is looking to replace its ABS caps with a PLA-PHA blend1.

 

  • PBS (Polybutylene succinate)

This aliphatic polyester has properties similar to those of polyolefins. At present, 35% of it comes from renewable resources, and it has the advantage of being biodegradable under industrial composting conditions.

Examples: Single-use coffee capsules, food trays, compostable bags

 

  • Biodegradable PLA

As well as being bio-based, PLA also has the advantage of being biodegradable, because it can be composted at high temperatures, i.e. in an industrial environment. Although not all PLA can be composted.

 

  • Innovation in biodegradable polymers

The search for new biodegradable, bio-based and sustainable solutions is mobilising researchers around the world. Here are a few innovations:

  • Bioplastics made from microalgae and green algae collected on beaches2
  • Edible polymers containing casein and other proteins
  • Biodegradable lignocellulose-based polymers

 

The advantages of biodegradable solutions

  • Compostability

The biodegradability of these polymers means they could potentially be compatible with industrial or domestic composting.

If these polymers are both bio-based and biodegradable, this return to nature becomes part of a virtuous circle, contributing in particular to the re-carbonisation of soils worn down by intensive agriculture3. In this way, the carbon cycle is neither slowed down nor blocked.

 

  • Reducing pollution

Water4 contamination by nano-, micro- and macroplastics is reaching critical levels. The use of polymers that are truly biodegradable in water appears to be necessary for many applications, particularly fishing.

 

Widespread adoption of bioplastics and biopolymers: what challenges are we facing?

A European legal framework is urgently needed

 

The European Commission considers that a legal framework needs to be established to specify the extent to which these bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics can be part of a sustainable future.
As far as composting is concerned, ANSES recommends banning compostable plastics from domestic composting, in the absence of sufficient standardisation.

ANSES is therefore proposing the introduction of a single, mandatory standard for products made from plastics claiming to be biodegradable or compostable.

 

A need to “educate” consumers

 

The growing use of biodegradable plastics is currently the subject of debate, not least because of the risk of confusion on the part of consumers. They could be encouraged to dispose of their biodegradable waste in the environment, which is clearly undesirable.

That being said, recycling cannot be seen as the only solution, as some waste that is “lost” in nature will never be recovered for recycling. For these specific applications5, the use of biodegradable polymers is much more realistic!

 

What does the future hold for sustainable food packaging?

 

A clearly defined regulatory and normative framework is still lacking, which is holding back the adoption of sustainable packaging solutions.
Nevertheless, although bioplastics only account for a small proportion of packaging, their use is set to increase sharply in the coming years, particularly with the separate collection of bio-waste becoming mandatory from 2024. In Italy, where separate collection has already been in place since 2022, the collection of compostable bioplastics is presented as a model of Italian excellence6.
PLA, PHA and PBS are currently the best-known bio-based and biodegradable polymers. Thanks to innovation, ever more effective solutions are emerging, suggesting that petroleum will no longer be used in the food packaging sector in the not too distant future.
With its 100% bio-based and 100% biodegradable solution, made from milk proteins, Lactips wants to contribute to this objective!

 

Do you want to boost the biodegradability of your plastic products?

 

Download our white paper!

 


1 https://www.usinenouvelle.com/article/partenariat-coreen-dans-les-bioplastiques.N2172397

2 https://www.lesechos.fr/weekend/planete/eranova-du-bioplastique-a-base-dalgues-vertes-1915204

3 https://www.lesechos.fr/idees-debats/sciences-prospective/climat-et-si-on-cultivait-du-carbone-1396673

4 and air, clouds, mountains, soil, etc.

5 Golf tees, horticultural and agricultural equipment, etc

6 https://eng.biorepack.org/communication/press-releases/compostable-bioplastics-food-waste-collection-model.kl

[WHITE PAPER] Boosting the Biodegradability of Plastic Products is Possible!

Plastic materials vary in terms of properties, functions, origin, and the nature of their end of life. Petro-sourced polymers impose a significant dependence on fossil fuel whereas bio-based plastics provide a renewable alternative. However, it is essential to note that not all bio-based plastics are automatically biodegradable, and vice versa.

 

The challenges of reducing dependency on fossil fuel and using renewable materials are crucial.

 

Through this white paper, Lactips aims to address themes related to the origin and end of life of plastic materials, while offering an innovative alternative solution. This represents a major advancement in the field of plastics, allowing for an increase in the proportion of bio-based and/or biodegradable content in a polymer. The use of CareTips® in blends with biopolyesters provides flexibility in material transformation, while contributing to a reduction in its environmental impact. These blends are intended for the plastics industry, offering a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics in alignment with corporate social responsibility goals.

 

This approach creates a virtuous cycle, preserving resources and promoting carbon circularity. The innovations presented in this white paper will facilitate your transition to more sustainable and environmentally friendly plastics.

READ THE WHITE PAPER

The resurgence of glass bottle deposit: a necessity in the era of the circular economy

The reintroduction of glass bottle deposits comes at a time when promoting the circular economy is necessary, all while limiting the use of single-use containers. This initiative aligns with sustainability goals and aims to reduce our environmental footprint, while emphasizing the many benefits of reuse.

Reusing glass containers requires less energy than recycling glass. Indeed, the production of recycled glass involves extremely high temperatures for melting the material, which is a highly energy-intensive process. Promoting reuse helps to minimize this energetic demand,  thereby reducing our carbon footprint. When it comes to water, glass manufacturing is once again very water-intensive, and reuse drastically reduces this demand, contributing to the conservation of this increasingly precious resource.

However, reusing containers does require the ability to clean them. Washing stations, once more numerous in France, are now experiencing a renewed interest from the industrial field and investors. The major challenge these stations currently face is the presence of labels that persist on certain containers, despite an extended soaking time, making them ineligible for cleaning and, consequently, for reuse.

What is Lactips’ solution? 

Lactips offers an innovative solution to this challenge, thanks to the water-soluble label made with its material: CareTips®. This material, 100% bio-sourced, biodegradable and water-soluble, is transformed into a printable adhesive film. The resulting label contains no paper.

When the glass container arrives at the washing station, the label dissolves very quickly upon contact with water, leaving no residue or microplastics. The washing water is then less polluted and can be reused for a higher number of cycles before being replaced. Finally, the label will completely biodegrade once it reaches the wastewater treatment plant, with no impact on the subsequent water cycle.

 

Bertrand Dupeyroux’s view of the future of plastics processing through bioplastics

Pioneer in natural polymers based on proteins since 2014, Lactips rethinks plastic by developing and manufacturing a plastic without plastic, 100% bio-sourced, fully biodegradable in all environments and water-soluble without leaving any microplastics. Processable like any plastic, Lactips commercializes its technology, called CareTips®, in markets such as film and paper flexible packaging, labels, agriculture and outdoor sports.

 

A growing manufacturing sector over the next 5 to 10 years

Within the global production of plastics, the bioplastics part is around 1% today. However, under the combined pressure of regulations and consumers awareness, the market demand is expected to grow rapidly and the production should be multiplied by 3 by 2026 – 2027, according to the OECD.

 

A response to the challenges of the plastics industry

Because plastics are necessary for human activity, but controlling their end-of-life management is essential, Lactips is facing the biggest challenge of pollution by developing a natural polymer ingredient which has the power to boost the biodegradability of other biopolymers. Some injected parts represent fugitive plastics because they cannot be collected and recycled. Adding CareTips® in formulation can limit the impact of plastic products with a high risk of loss in the environment by boosting their biodegradability.

 

A company that stands out from its competitors

The material produced by Lactips differs from standard plastics in its technical properties. As such, it has specific performances linked to its properties: solubility in water without leaving microplastics, biodegradability in all environments, support regulatory transition… It also contributes to improving the biodegradability of the plastics with which it is associated, and to having end of life in the environment. Moreover, our technology is a drop-in solution that can be used by plastics manufacturers without any additional investment, to allow a transition to an environmentally friendly economy without destabilising the industry, and by opening up new possibilities. In addition, Lactips has become French Tech 2030 winner, a system promoting the development of breakthrough solutions, such as CareTips®, which meet the challenges of society and industrial sovereignty.

 

Technological development projects for 2024

Lactips has tested its new blended film solution with a leader blown film extrusion manufacturer for the lamination of bio-waste collection bags adapted to methanisation. The product offers several advantages as being compatible with the different processes, like methanisation and compost ; being a bio-sourced blend film with high methanogenic power and being a facilitator for the upcoming French regulation in 2024 on the collection of bio-waste.

 

By Bertrand Dupeyroux, VP Sales & Marketing at Lactips

 

Naturality booster, CareTips®️, major opportunity for the plastics industry

The world as we know it doesn’t work without plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re all familiar with the terms plastic, bioplastic, biosourced or even biodegradable material. A brief overview of these definitions:
The dictionary defines plastic as “a mixture containing a macromolecular substance as its fundamental component and that has usually been moulded or shaped”. A rather broad definition, encompassing materials that differ in nature, properties, end-of-life and origin.

 

With this in mind, bioplastic is a type of plastic that is either biosourced or biodegradable. Plastic is said to be biosourced if it comes from biomass resources, and biodegradable if it decomposes when in contact with living organisms. Combined, these two features make it what we call a renewable resource: in other words, a resource that can be reused after a “human” time cycle. But be careful: biosourced plastic is not necessarily biodegradable, and vice versa!

Under the terms of the “Single Use Plastics Directive” (2019/904/EU) and the REACH Regulation (1907/2006 EC), natural polymers such as our CareTips®️ pellets that have not been chemically modified are not considered to be “plastic”, and are therefore excluded from the scope of the Single Use Plastics Directive. So it’s a non-plastic plastic, both biosourced and fully biodegradable! It degrades quickly and completely, leaving absolutely no trace in the environment where it is used, whether water or soil.

In regard to this, if it is mixed with other plastics, it accelerates the disintegration process of the mixture. Lactips therefore offers a “blend” product, a true biodegradability booster with a higher biosourced component content.

 

Why is this interesting? 

The Lactips solution anticipates future regulations and directives regarding the use of plastics, enabling the introduction of a product that meets the eco-design needs of its customers, while raising consumer awareness. The result is recycled polymers with enhanced biodegradability or biosourced content, and a lower rate of rejected microplastics, meaning better control of your product’s end-of-life.

 

 

 

[WHITE PAPER] The importance of the circular economy in packaging

Humans have extracted more raw materials since the Second World War than at any other time in our history. Our planet’s resources are finite. The linear
economy which is based on the idea of “extract, manufacture, consume and throw away” is unsustainable over the long term.1 In the circular economy, products are reused and what cannot be reused is recycled or organically broken down.

This white paper firstly looks at the environmental issues involving food packaging along with the advantages and disadvantages of paper packaging.
Lactips’ Plastic Free PaperTM is also introduced as a way to respond to a host of environmental issues. Secondly, we present how sustainable packaging can improve a company’s communication strategy and we point out the best ways to inform your target audience about Plastic Free PaperTM.

Read the white paper

Plastic Free Paper™, a plastic-free coating for cellulose packaging

For a long time, plastic additives have been used to ensure the watertightness and sealability of paper packaging. While these substances allow for food use, they have the disadvantage of disrupting the recyclability and biodegradability of the cellulose fibres!

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is the first fully recyclable and compostable paper packaging solution that does not contain plastic or any controversial substances.

 

What is 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™?

An innovative product

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is the result of the co-development, with the eco-organisation CITEO, of a new coating solution for cellulose matrices.

This innovative product, composed of cellulose fibres coated with a natural polymer based on milk casein, is thus the first generation of heat-sealable packaging paper without plastic.

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™, a sustainable, high-performance and safe packaging.

  • Sustainable: 100% biobased, recyclable, biodegradable and allows the integration of recycled fibres
  • High performance: Barrier to grease, oxygen, aromas and mineral oils (MOSH and MOAH)
  • Safe: complies with food contact requirements and is free from controversial substances (PFAs)

What are the applications of 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™?

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ can be used to package dry or fatty products, for food or non-food applications:

  • Routing films
  • Heat-sealable food films
  • Packaging for tea, chocolate, confectionery, biscuits, croquettes…
  • Paper and cardboard for fast food

 

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™, a solution to plastic pollution!

As the name suggests, 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ does not contain plastic, but a natural polymer within the meaning of the REACH regulation and the SUP directive.  This product is not affected by the obligations and bans of the “Single-Use Directive” on plastics.

Recyclable

Unlike PE-coated paper packaging, no chemicals are needed to separate the cellulose layers from the resin, as the resin is water-soluble.

During recycling, the pulp passes through the filters without leaving any sticky residue and 100% of the paper is recovered.

Guaranteed to have no impact on the recyclability of paper and cardboard, according to tests carried out by:

  •  The Centre Technique du Papier (CTP), in France
  • The Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS), in Germany

Water soluble and degradable in water

The plastic-free resin contained in 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is not only water-soluble, but also biodegradable in water. This means that on the one hand, the resin dissolved in water during the paper recycling stage is not a waste product.

On the other hand, 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is a biodegradable packaging solution (in both fresh and sea water) and it does not pose a danger to aquatic organisms unlike microplastics.

Biodegradability of the resin in fresh water – Certified with the OK BIODEGRADABLE WATER S0907 mark of conformity from TÜV Austria

Biodegradability of the resin in seawater – The resin was tested with a biodegradation test based on ASTM D6691 (2017)[1]

Finally a truly compostable packaging!

Biodegradation of materials is often limited to composting under industrial conditions, which is misleading to the consumer.

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ has the advantage of being a fully compostable solution at home!

Compostable at home – The compostability of the resin contained in 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ has been certified by the OK COMPOST HOME mark of TÜV Austria[2].

 

[1] Its decay was also tested (95 μm). After an incubation period in natural seawater, 100% complete decay was achieved.

[2] Les exigences de la marque OK COMPOST HOME sont basées sur la norme EN13432, et sont plus strictes que les exigences du compost industriel.

*TÜV Austria OK Water Biodegradable and OK Compost Home Certificate S0907 covers the Lactips thermoplastic pellets reference CareTips 300A. Specific grades can be certified upon request.

 

Heat-sealable packaging without plastic: is it possible?

Trays, films and heat-sealable pouches play an essential role in food preservation. However, in addition to being an environmental hazard, the plastics they are made of are not without health risks!

Are there heat-sealable solutions without plastic? The answer is yes!

 

Why is heat-sealable packaging used?

Heat sealing is a process whereby a plastic material is welded to another material (e.g. during tray packing) or to itself, in the case of sealing a plastic film.

Heat sealing is used to seal a package to protect the contents.

Heat-sealable routing films to protect press articles

These packaging films are used to transport magazines, brochures, periodicals, leaflets, newspapers, etc. Since 1 January 2022, the AGEC law prohibits plastic packaging for shipped press publications.

As an alternative to plastic films, some professionals have opted for paper solutions coated with water-based heat-sealable glue, while others have opted to do away with packaging.

Heat-sealable films to preserve foodstuffs

Depending on the products to be preserved, a food packaging will have to ensure different barrier functions against oxygen, gases, oils, fats or water vapour.

It must also meet strict regulatory requirements concerning the materials that can be used.

Heat sealing allows these packages to be hermetically sealed and to better preserve foodstuffs.

 

Problems with the use of plastic in food packaging

Health risks

Plastics have the advantage of providing effective barrier layers for the preservation of foodstuffs. However, the use of plastics is not trivial and the migration of micro and nano plastics into our food is a reality that is beginning to be highlighted by recent scientific studies[1].

Although the impact of these particles on human health is still poorly understood, a potential “cocktail effect” could be the cause of various health problems in the long term [2]. Furthermore, the health risk of the use of PFAs has been raised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)[3].

A significant environmental impact

According to a WWF France report, 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in the environment every year and household packaging alone accounts for a quarter of this figure.

In order to stop this plastic haemorrhage, the AGEC law has set a deadline of 2040 for the end of single-use plastic, which obliges manufacturers to gradually turn to plastic-free solutions!

Heat-sealable food packaging: alternatives to traditional plastics?

 Are there any heat-sealable solutions with the same advantages as plastic? Fortunately, the answer is yes!

 

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™, a plastic-free coating for cellulose packaging

𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is a plastic-free solution made from a heat-sealable, non-toxic and environmentally responsible natural polymer:

  • The plastic-free resin has no effect on the recyclability of coated papers
  • Our solution is biodegradable in water and in marine environments
  • 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿™ is also compostable at home!

 

[1] See for example the study “Honey quality and migration of microplastics from food packaging: A potential threat to consumer health”, open access https://www.mdpi.com/2673-8929/1/3/30/htm

[2] A recent study on mice shows that food contamination can affect the functioning of our gut

[3] Report published in 2020: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/pfas-food-efsa-assesses-risks-and-sets-tolerable-intake

[PODCAST] Unboxing your packaging

When companies are aiming for plastic-free, they would like an alternative having the exact same properties as conventional plastics while meeting all the best end-of-life scenarios. Are they dreaming awake? Could bioplastic packaging be both recyclable and properly biodegradable in all types of environments?

Flavie Bancel, our Business Development Manager, explains:
✔️ what are our natural polymer pellets,
✔️ how their solubility fits recyclability as well as compostability, and even reusability,
✔️ and how education supports adequate transition for the end-users and the industries.

Enjoy listening

Food packaging in the scope of single use plastics (SUP) directive

  1. Behind the SUP Directive

In the middle of the climate crisis, plastic appear to be one of the problems at the spotlight. Action is required to overcome the damage that plastic is causing to environment. On European area alone, more than 25 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated yearly, and only 30% is collected for recycling, while 85% of marine pollution comes from this source[1]. Plastic waste exports[2] going to Turkey, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia coming from European Union countries continued at high levels at the end of 2020.

Among the impacts of plastic pollution, single-use and disposable items (such as bags, straws, coffee cups, beverage bottles and most food packaging) are growing as each year more plastic waste accumulates in our environment and oceans1.

 

  1. What is the SUP Directive

Its real name is DIRECTIVE (EU) 2019/904 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, however, it is commonly known as the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive.

The SUP Directive was first proposed to tackle single-use plastic products which are the most founded on beaches and fishing gear.

As stated in the Directive, ‘single-use plastic product’ means a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is not conceived, designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips or rotations by being returned to a producer for refill or re-used for the same purpose for which it was conceived;

According to this definition, the Single-Use Plastic Directive includes in its scope other products laminated with plastic, such as paper packaging and plates made of paper with a plastic layer (also known as coated paper).

All types of plastic are included in the scope of the Directive, even biobased and biodegradable plastics. Except from unmodified natural polymers, within the meaning of the definition of ‘not chemically modified substances’ in point 40 of Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council[3].

In the scope of the Single-Use Plastic Directive, we can find several categories of products, as can be seen in the Table 1. Each of these categories of products (food containers, cup for beverages, etc) are subject to different measures (consumption reduction, product ban, product design, etc.). So, according to this information, it is important to understand that the Single-Use Plastic Directive is not going to ban all Single Use Plastic products.

 

  1. Food containers in SUP

“Food containers” was one of the categories which caused most controversy and aroused more questions: Which food containers are under the scope of the Directive? What are the measures applied to them?

Several types of food containers are included in the Single-Use Plastic Directive: take-away packaging, packets and wrappers, beverage bottles, cups for beverages… Depending on the category, different measures will apply to these products. In this article we will only focus on food containers, excluding beverage packaging.

Table 1. Product categories and measure applied in SUP Directive

  • Rigid food containers in the scope of the Directive

According to the definitions given by the SUP Directive, food containers refer to the packaging used to contain food that will be consumed immediately (commonly known as take-away packaging):

 

  

“Food containers, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

(a) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,

(b) is typically consumed from the receptacle, and

(c) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating, including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food.”

 

The following concept map can help to understand whether a food packaging is included, or not, under the scope of the Directive:

Further information regarding the definition and examples of these kind of packaging can be found in the Commission guidelines on single-use plastic products in accordance with Directive (European Union) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

 

  • Flexible food containers in the scope of the Directive: Packets and wrappers

According to the SUP Directive, “packets and wrappers” are plastic or plastic-coated products made of flexible material containing food for immediate consumption:

Packets and wrappers made from flexible material containing food that is intended for immediate consumption from the packet or wrapper without any further preparation”[4]

The following concept map can help to understand whether a food packaging is included, or not, under the scope of the Directive:

Further information regarding the definition and examples of these kind of packaging can be found in the Commission guidelines on single-use plastic products in accordance with Directive (European Union) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

 

  1. Measures applied to food packaging products[5]

As explained before not all products are covered by the same measures, consumption reduction measures will be applied to food packaging mentioned in part 3.1, only extended polystyrene food packaging have been banned in Europe, while extended producer responsibility and awareness raising measures apply to both categories of food packaging explained in this article.

 

  • Consumption reduction (only for rigid packaging products mentioned in part 3.1)

Member States are responsible to take measures to achieve ambitious and sound reduction in the consumption of single-use food packaging products as specified in part 3.1 of this article. Those measures shall achieve a measurable quantitative reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic food packaging products of the Member State by 2026 compared to 2022.

By July 3rd of 2021, Member States were supposed to prepare a description of these measures and notify to the Commission. The measures may include national consumption reduction targets, measures ensuring that re-usable alternatives to the single-use plastic food packaging products are made available at the point of sale to the final consumer.

  • Product ban (only EPS products included in part 3.1)

Only rigid food containers, as specified in 3.1, made of expanded polystyrene have been prohibited in Europe since July 2021, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

  • is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,
  • is typically consumed from the receptacle, and
  • is ready to be consumed without any further preparation

 

  • Extended producer responsibility

Member States shall ensure that extended producer responsibility schemes are established for single-use plastic products listed in part 3.1 and 3.2 of this article which are placed on the market of the Member State, in accordance with Articles 8 and 8a of Directive 2008/98/EC. Member States shall ensure that the producers cover the costs pursuant to the extended producer responsibility provisions in Directives 2008/98/EC and 94/62/EC and, insofar as not already included, cover the following costs:

  • the costs of the awareness raising measures referred to in Article 10 of this Directive regarding those products;
  • the costs of waste collection for those products that are discarded in public collection systems, including the infrastructure and its operation, and the subsequent transport and treatment of that waste;
  • the costs of cleaning up litter resulting from those products and the subsequent transport and treatment of that litter.

 

  • Awareness raising

According to Article 10, Member States along Europe will be responsible to inform consumers and to promote responsible consumer behaviour to reduce litter from food packaging included in the Directive. This information includes the availability of reusable alternatives and the impact of littering and other inappropriate waste disposal of single use products.

 

  1. What are the options?

Europe seems to be pushing for reusability. And indeed, incentivise the use of reusable packaging for the consumption of “fast” products which are intended for immediate consumption without further preparation seems to be the best option in terms of saving environmental impact. However, establishments such as supermarkets or restaurants need to offer alternatives in case their clients are not bringing with them a reusable option.

These alternatives have been, up to now, led by paper packaging. However, paper products need grease barrier to make sure that the consumption is convenient for the customer. For many years, PFAS have been used to provide this barrier, however these chemicals have been found to be extremely dangerous for human health and environment. PFAS is a large family of over 4,500 compounds, also known as “Forever Chemicals” due to their extreme persistence in the environment. PFAS are widely used in disposable food packaging and tableware in Europe. This includes food packaging from popular fast-food chains and restaurants. [6]

Other options for paper with grease and oxygen barrier are now been developed, for example, Lactips offers solutions like Plastic Free Paper: the first paper packaging solution that is free from plastic or controversial substances and fully recyclable and compostable.

Lactips has developed, with support from the eco-organization CITEO, a new cellulose material coating solution that ensures the total recyclability of papers and cardboards. This first generation combines the paper with the thermoplastic developed by Lactips to meet the challenges relating to performance capabilities and sustainable development.

100% biosourced, home compostable and heat-sealed, the Plastic Free Paper solutions provide the oxygen, fat and mineral oil barriers that are essential for preserving food products. This material is fully compliant with food contact standards.

Tests carried out with Centre Technique du Papier (CTP) in France and Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS) in Germany have confirmed that there is no impact on the recyclability of the papers and cardboards for the first two applications available:

Replacing the sealable plastic layer for non-food packaging, such as mailing films or food films for dry or fatty products (tea bags, confectionery, pet chews, etc.)

Replacing per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) for papers that need to be grease-proof (e.g. fast food packaging)

The Plastic Free Paper solutions offer a real alternative for manufacturers (processors and/or brands) in the context of their environmental efforts and the application of the European directive restricting single-use plastics (Directive 2019/904/EC). The material developed by Lactips is not a plastic, but a natural material, in accordance with European Regulation no.1907/2006 (REACH), and is therefore exempt from the demands and restrictions set by this directive.

Coating material solutions with no impact on paper recycling process

 

[1] plastics-strategy.pdf (europa.eu)

[2] https://www.ban.org/plastic-waste-project-hub/trade-data/eu-export-data

[3] DIRECTIVE (European Union) 2019/904 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

[4] DIRECTIVE (EU) 2019/904 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

[5] DIRECTIVE (EU) 2019/904 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

[6] Throwaway packaging forever chemicals. European wide survey of PFAS in disposable food packaging and tableware

Lactips