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Bio-Board: or how to transform food by-products into 100% recyclable packaging


Each year, millions of tons of paper and cardboard food packaging are produced around the world. Faced with this situation, the European R&D Bio-Board project aims to offer a material for plastic-coated food packaging that is derived from by-products from the agrifood industry itself.

Credit: Thinkstock – Cristinistor

Paper or cardboard packaging materials sometimes contain polyethylene (PE): a thermoplastic resin that is highly resistant to chemical agents and shocks, which forms a protective film when the packaging comes into contact with its food contents. Derived from oil products, this plastic makes the full recycling of packaging more complex, requiring technologies that can separate the various materials.
Supported by a consortium of universities, municipalities and private partners, the European Bio-Board project is working to develop an alternative to this thermoplastic, replacing it with agrifood industry by-products, such as whey from cheese production, potato juice from starch production, etc. According to the project coordinator Elodie Bugnicourt, Bio-Board “represents a response to growing demand from food packaging producers for biomaterials that can replace synthetic coatings, without compromising on their efficiency“, while adding that the materials created satisfy these prerequisites.

The project was launched in view of the following observation: each year, nearly 25 million tons of whey, 65,000 tons of dried fruit juice and 140,000 tons of dried potato pulp are wasted…The transformation of these food by-products into coatings for packaging is fully in line with a circular economy approach, enabling waste to be reused and developing a new more eco-friendly material. This new material has already been tested for its barrier properties, its flexibility, its adhesive strength and even its capacity to contain liquid or solid foods. Its use for coatings has also been tested on a pilot production and alternative processes for producing packaging have been reviewed.
The transformation is presented in detail in this report by the news channel Euronews :

Credit: Euronews

There are still certain technical challenges to be met: from reducing the thickness of the coating, ensuring compliance with current food packaging standards, to reducing production costs to make it as competitive as conventional polyethylene packaging…While the marketing of this material as a coating for food packaging still needs some technical adjustments, the outlook for development is very promising, with the bioplastics market seeing annual growth of 20 to 30%!

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