Seaweed in coatings - another way to go green

By Sally Cousins Sun, Mar 17, 2013

BRUSSELS, March 18, 2013 (RISI) -Brand owners searching for sustainable coatings are looking to paper and board producers for a solution.

A move away from traditional coatings in response to increased environmental focus and rising petroleum costs have led to some innovative eco coatings from a range of paperboard companies.

Industry leader International Paper's recent announcement to explore its sustainable packaging options signifies the growing emergence of the environmentally friendly coating market. It completed a license agreement with Smart Planet Technologies to explore the development of products using EarthCoating - a mineralized barrier coating for paperboard products.

The company's coated paperboard division plans to create a line of folding carton and cupstock products within its Everest and Fortress grade lines that improve yield and reduce plastic while offering the same barrier properties available on the market today.

Trial work and pilot testing is now underway. Greg Gibson, vice president, coated paperboard, in his statement said: "As a leading supplier to the consumer packaging and food service markets, we know that paperboard converters and consumer product companies are focused on reducing the amount of packaging material they use while maintaining the required protective barriers and print performance."

The oceans may also hold the key to future ‘green' coatings. The Paint Research Association (PRA), working as part of a EU research consortium has developed a sustainable coating using seaweed extracts and starch.

The new product, called PlantPack is designed to replace current packaging coatings based on petrochemicals and can be applied to paper and cardboard as a spray. To overcome 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. 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).

Stora Enso's Skoghall Mill in Sweden has also been proactive in developing a more sustainable product for food packages. Its CKB packaging board now comes with a polyethylene coating made from renewable raw materials. Stora Enso has worked in close cooperation with the Swedish company Trioplast/Ekmans to develop the coating as well as a converter and a brand owner. Norwegian fish and seafood company Domstein ASA was the first to use packages with the new coating for its frozen fish gratin products.

The bio-based PE used for coating the CKB board is manufactured with sugar cane as the raw material in Brazil, and has the same performance characteristics as traditional, fossil-based PE.

Demand is increasing for this type of coating. Market support and product manager at Skoghall Mill, Fredrik Werner explained that although bio-barriers have been a "hot topic" for some years the industry and end-users are ready to take it to the next step. "Brand owners and converters want a ‘green' package, but without sacrificing the performance and runability of the laminate."

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