Replacing Poly (PE) Coated Paper and Paperboard in Food Packaging

Poly Replacement Food Package
A Poly Coated (PE) Replacement Aqueous Coating

Want an alternative to polyethylene (PE) coated paper and paperboard? Replacements for poly exist in food packaging. The answer is simple, FDA direct food compliant water-based (aqueous) coatings, supplied by Cork Industries are providing an alternative to PE coated paper and paperboard. Poly Replacement in Food Packaging can be our Aqueous coatings.  These are formulated across a broad spectrum of desired properties that are often packaged product specific.

For example, Cork’s Aqueous Coatings are commonly used for fast food carryout packaging, (i.e., such products as French fries, onion rings, burgers, various sandwiches, fried chicken, and Chinese foods.) Other poly replacements in food packaging products include items such as bakery, pastries, frozen foods, microwavable and oven-able foods, and roasted chicken which are routinely packaged.

Differing food products might require water, and/or grease/oil resistance, a low MVTR, odor and taste protection, temperature or chemical resistance, anti-wicking, product release, with good scuff resistance, and appropriate COF properties. Cork’s Aqueous Coatings that offer these properties, plus gluability, and heat sealability are replacing PE coatings.

Other aqueous coated paper board products are being formed into paper plates, trays, and cartons. Foremost, aqueous coated paper and paper board is, sustainable, biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, and repulpable (without hydro-pulping).

Cork’s Aqueous Coatings can be applied off-line or in-line, giving control to the printer to create a substrate designed to satisfy an individual customer’s requirements. Additionally, these Cork coatings DO NOT fall under the new EU single-use Plastic Directive (SUPD dated July 3, 2019, the implementation of which has slowed in most European countries.

What are the Problems with Poly (PE) Coated Board?

One of the world’s most pressing environmental issues is said to be plastics pollution, as volumes of disposable plastics have surged to become overwhelming. Very few disposed plastics get recycled and consequently, they are littering our landscape, waterways, and oceans, compromising the health of humans and animals. Plastics don’t easily decompose and if burned release toxic gases. These problems have led to consumer, political and legislative pressure to reduce fossil fuel-based plastic use.

Coated paper and paperboard (poly board), containing about 20 mass percent of PE, is one of the most widely used materials for food and beverage packaging ranging from milk cartons and soup packets to fast food boxes and cups. The portion that ends up in landfills finds the paper component degrading rapidly while the Petro- chemical based PE coating takes decades to break down.

An American Forest & Paper Assoc. survey shows that a high percentage of U.S. communities have access to paperboard recycling. A stipulation is that the refuse must be clean in and out (a chore and water wasting process). When recycled, Poly board sees a “hydro-pulping” process to separate paper fiber from PE after which the pulp is recycled.

Poly coated board is a substrate consisting of rigid paperboard that is extrusion coated with a layer of PE to provide improved barrier properties. This single surface PE coated board is widely used as external cartons for many foods with a short shelf life, and over a wide temperature range (frozen to ambient). Two side PE coated paper board is extensively used to package liquid products, high-moisture, and fatty food products. PE is easily heat sealed for package closure.

The Downside of Polyethylene in Packaging

Polyethylene (PE), a polyolefin, is a thermoplastic, organic polymer, consisting of long hydrocarbon chains. The light versatile synthetic resin is produced by the polymerization of ethylene. Ethylene, a gaseous hydrocarbon, is commonly produced by the cracking of ethane, which is a component of natural gas, or it can be distilled from petroleum. Most grades have excellent chemical resistance and are resistant to gentle oxidizing and reducing agents.

Currently, due to polyethylene’s negative environmental aspects, and the movement to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel use, science continues to search hard for alternatives. There is still no material with all of plastic’s great advantages and none of its devastating disadvantages, even after extensive exploratory/development efforts seeking viable solutions.

The Growth of Bio-Plastics

Some of this effort is seeking to exploit bio-plastic technology. While it has been predicted that the use of bio-plastics will grow rapidly, it isn’t generally realized that plastics made from renewable plant resources won’t readily solve the problem of plastic debris. This is because more than 50% of current bio-based plastics are not biodegradable and require recycling. Hence the same problems as with PE.

A more environmentally friendly bio-plastic will require it to be both bio-based and biodegradable. Then again, some bio-plastics will be biodegradable only when composted with decomposing high temperature and humidity conditions. One European effort to go Green and improve recyclability has seen the successful commercialization of replacing Petro-chemical sourced PE with Green bio-sourced material, however, the result is still poly board.

New research in Poly Replacements

Many other concepts are being explored with the goal of replacing PE and PE-coated paper and paperboard. It remains, however, for many paper and paperboard product applications, that aqueous barrier-coatings offer a smart alternative to poly board.
Cork from its inception has developed and offered a wide range of aqueous coatings. A grouping of FDA compliant barrier coatings suitable for coating paper and paperboard substrates for liquid and dry food conveyance are among these.

Contact Cork Technical experts if you are looking for an aqueous coating with enhanced performance properties for a demanding application.  We are experts in Poly Replacement in Food Packaging. Corks’ business is the development and formulation of Aqueous, energy-curing Ultraviolet (UV), and Electron Beam (EB) specialty coatings and adhesives.  We’re here to help with your next poly replacement project.

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