Working as part of an EU research consortium, The Paint Research Association (PRA) has developed a food packaging coating product, called PlantPack, which can replace current packaging coatings based on petrochemicals which are bad for the environment.

PlantPack is an eco-friendly food packaging coating product made from seaweed extracts and starch. It can be applied to paper and cardboard as a spray.

Ian Claris, director of PRA says: “PlantPack is a real breakthrough for packing technology as it means at last there is a cost effective, sustainable alternative to petroleum derived coatings products. And because it’s a biodegradable product, it can be composted and recycled easily. So it’s better for the environment and performs at least as well as the existing products. We expect there to be a big demand for it from day one.”

Food packaging coatings are used on paper wraps, cartons and cardboard. Coatings provide physical barriers which protect food products in the packaging container during storage and transportation.

Although seaweed extracts have previously been used to develop sustainable barrier materials for food and pharmaceuticals products, they have never been applied as a coating for packaging products as they haven’t been as flexible or strong. To overcome these physical limitations, the scientists working on the project blended seaweed extracts with starch and starch derivatives (which have good flexibility and strength) so it could be applied to paper packaging.

Current packaging coatings are based on petrochemical derived waxes and polymers. However, with increasing petroleum costs and recent instability and volatility in some oil producing countries, the food packaging sector is searching for an alternative reliable and sustainable package coating product.

PRA is working with a consortium of European partners with funding from the European Commission under the Framework Programme Seven (from the Research Executive Agency).

The partners are:

  • ITENE - (Spain) Spanish packaging, transport and logistics research centre
  • Mantrose UK Ltd - (UK) world leader in edible coatings and specialty products for the pharmaceutical, confectionery, agricultural, food and industrial industries
  • Altin Gidas - (Turkey) Turkish producer of meat, meat coating products, ready meals and delicatessen products
  • Alexir Packaging Limited - (UNITED KINGDOM) manufacture and produce a wide range of industrial and commercial packaging, mainly cartons and cardboard.
  • Yanko SP. Z.o.o - (POLAND) Yanko’s speciality is in paper packaging for the food industry
  • Seaweed Canarias (SPAIN) - Seaweed Canarias is a biotechnology company which provides solutions based on algae products for industry in the field of agriculture, nutrition, animal health and cosmetics

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