The Itene technology center has improved the properties of compostable plastic materials to promote their application in packaging of IV range products, such as ready-to-eat vegetables, and V range products, such as prepared rice. To this end, the validation of the food safety and compostability of the final packaging is also being finalized.
These formulations have been achieved in the Compolist project, executed between June 2022 and the same month of 2023 and financed by the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE).
Packaging with improved properties developed from
compostable materials within the framework of the project.
The person in charge of the project at Itene, María José Jiménez, explained that “the objective has been to obtain compostable materials for packaging applications in which these solutions are not used or in which sustainable materials that offer the same functionalities as conventional ones are not available”.
In this regard, he has specified that, using melt mixing technology with custom-made screw configurations, formulations have been optimized to obtain demonstrators for flexible and rigid packaging, validating their suitability for food packaging. The compostability has also been verified in its laboratories, which are recognized by Enac to carry out the 4 phases of which the tests consist.
Specifically, a flexible compostable film has been obtained at the domestic level for the packaging of IV range products, fresh green leafy vegetables and chopped such as spinach and salad, which maintains the shelf life in conditions similar to those of conventional materials. For this, films have been obtained by extrusion blown on an industrial scale in the facilities of the company Inplasba, with barrier properties adapted to each type of product and high flexibility, as well as excellent sealability to maintain the integrity of the product and a friction coefficient suitable for use in industrial packaging equipment.
Additionally, its suitability for packaging other foods, such as cocoa derivatives, frozen, pastries and nuts will be validated in collaboration with companies in the food sector.
On the other hand, a compostable injected tray has been obtained, validated on an industrial scale with an improved thermal resistance, which has been validated for the packaging of ready-made rice dishes. “In general, compostable materials are not suitable for hot packaging because they deform with increasing temperature. However, by improving the thermal resistance, it has been achieved that these containers are not affected when heated in the microwave”” said the head of the project.
The developed material has improved barrier properties, allowing packaged products to reach a shelf life similar to the current one. Its mechanical resistance has also been evaluated, obtaining good resistance to stacking and possible falls without suffering damage.
The good processability in industrial conditions of the material has also been verified in collaboration with Sarabia Pack, in whose facilities the trays have been produced, and FoodVAC, which carried out the packaging of prepared rice.
These investigations are part of the line of work developed by Itene to develop new sustainable and advanced materials that meet the requirements of the product to be packaged and can be processed in conventional equipment of the packaging sector.