06 July 2020
Proven existing packaging solutions can reduce environmental impact by up to 80% compared with traditional all-plastic packaging. Composites such as Inverform, by Iggesund Paperboard combine the required strength, stiffness, and renewability qualities of paperboard with a thin plastic layer to satisfy hygiene requirements.
The hunt for materials that can replace plastic is intense. Innovation work is being done on a global scale to find renewable alternatives to plastic so that humanity can reduce the huge impact on the environment from our use of plastic. Many solutions are being tried but we still have no material with all of plastic’s great advantages without its devastating disadvantages. Instead of waiting for that magic material, which may never come, packaging buyers concerned about the climate should consider the existing alternatives and move to composite materials.
Proven packaging solutions already exist that combine a renewable material such as paperboard with a small amount of plastic, reducing their climate impact by over 80 per cent compared with traditional all-plastic packaging.
One very 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. This relatively easy change of materials reduces the packaging’s climate impact by over 80 per cent.
“Plastic is an excellent material for packaging. It is very formable and provides the seal we need in food packaging with high hygiene requirements,” explains Stefan Söderberg, Sales Manager New Products at Iggesund Paperboard. He is leading the market launch of Inverform, a composite material from Iggesund that can replace all-plastic trays and greatly reduce the trays’ climate impact.
Various types of packaging made of plastic-coated paperboard have existed for decades. But thanks to the latest advances in paperboard manufacture, they have gained better functionality and reduced their climate impact. The debate over fossil versus renewable materials and their respective climate impacts has further placed the combination of plastic and paperboard in an increasingly positive light.
“The disadvantages of plastic packagings is that they are normally totally fossil based and are also not very easy to recycle,” comments Johan Granås, Sustainability Director at Iggesund Paperboard. “In comparison, our paperboard’s climate impact is about 90 per cent 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.”
At least three serious problems are linked to humanity’s extensive use of plastic materials: