New study supports barrier technology, providing a new alternative to single use plastic

A new study commissioned by DS Smith and Aquapak shows that innovative, bio-digestible barrier coatings increase paper recycling rates and fibre yield, without compromising functionality, providing a viable new packaging alternative to plastic.

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Working in partnership to find solutions

DS Smith has been working with Aquapak to find a solution together to the issue of non-recyclable paper packaging, the use of which has increased as the industry has moved to replace conventional, hard to recycle and single use plastics. This has resulted in a wide va­riety of fibre-based packaging formats combined with alternative functional barriers being introduced into the recovered paper recycling streams.   However, the materials currently being used to give paper the packaging functionality required for products such as food, drink, and household goods, are not easily recyclable and mean that the paperboard is rejected because paper mills cannot process the paper and plastic combinations.  Instead, they are incinerated or go to landfill.

Nick Thompson, Materials Development Director, DS Smith Group R&D

It’s clear that materials used in paper-based packaging have to be designed into the packaging with recycling in mind from the start. This is why DS Smith developed circular design principles; to ensure repulpability, recyclability and no negative impact on the end of life of the materials used. It seems like the Aquapak Hydropol product during recycling, has now been shown to help fibre separation and can itself be eliminated from the process with no negative impact and with no need for finding an outlet for unwanted waste material, such as difficult to recycle plastics.

— Nick Thompson, Materials Development Director, DS Smith Group R&D

To provide a solution to this problem, Aquapak has developed Hydropol, a com­mercially available fully soluble, bio-digestible barrier polymer, which can be adhesive- or extrusion coated onto paper and brings a number of benefits to fibre-based packaging, including oil and grease resistance. It is non-toxic, marine safe, dissolves in water and subsequently biodegrades but still provides the much-needed functionality required for food, drink, and household product packaging.

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A reduction in single-use plastics

The results obtained in the study provide packaging designers with a clear route as to how to meet the Paperbased Packaging Recyclability Guideline set out by the European association representing the paper industry (Cepi).

Mark Lapping, Chief Executive Officer, Aquapak

The new research is hugely important for the packaging industry as it proves that they now have an alternative solution to existing plastics which is commercially available and, crucially, does not compromise on functionality or the end of life of the materials. It is now up to the industry to embrace the new technology available to them and create a new generation of packaging which meet the needs of the circular economy.

— Mark Lapping, Chief Executive Officer, Aquapak

Please click here to read the full results of the study.

Paper mills across Europe