30. Jul 2014
There is a growing need - and a significant market opportunity - for packaging solutions offering enhanced sustainability. Thermoforming is one of the dominant and growing technologies in the packaging market, yet although bio-based trays have been around for a number of years, they do not meet the barrier properties required for sensitive food products
Research institute IRIS, located in Barcelona, Spain, has announced the kick-off of a new European research project aimed at solving this problem. Called Thermowey, the focus is to develop a new bio-based thermoformable barrier coating solution that can be used throughout the breadth of the packaging sector. This 28-month R&D project, which is funded by the EU Seventh Framework Programme (under the Manunet programme), will deliver whey protein coating with improved thermoformability independently from storage time while maintaining excellent barrier properties.
Overall, bio-based plastics still represent a niche but, thanks to technical innovations and with a 25% annual growth, have increasing potential to replace their synthetic counterparts. Unlike the group of biopolymers based on feedstock originating from edible crops, ThermoWhey represents a unique market offering that is derived from agrofood by-product, that is able to deliver sufficient barrier properties for products packed in modified atmosphere (MAP). The project will develop a complete manufacturing set up and optimized process for producing whey powder (WPC), agglomeration process for whey protein based barrier coatings, as well as a coating process for films, and the manufacture of thermoformed packaging (blisters and trays) for pharmaceutical and food industries.
The consortium for this project is complementary, combining the expertise of 4 SMEs, partners (IRIS coordinator, GEBA, MLANG and SERVIPLAST) and one research institute (FRAUNHOFER) and brings together competences from Spain and Germany.
Like its Wheylayer barrier polymer predecessor, the ThermoWhey project is expected to solve multiple challenges: finding new commercial use of currently discarded cheese by-product, replacing petroleum-based plastics with 100% natural biopolymers that are able to be recycled without in any way compromising performance.(KL)