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European researchers work to develop biodegradable dairy packaging

Spanish nonprofit research organization works with companies from five European countries to pioneer a biodgradable material for dairy that stands up to thermal requirements.
FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Bioplastics

Since May 2014, The Technological Institute of Plastic (AIMPLAS) in Valencia, Spain, has been coordinating research by seven companies and technological centers to develop new materials to manufacture biodegradable packages for dairy products. The project is called BIOBOTTLE, and its aim is to create multilayer and monolayer plastic bottles as well as bags to package dairy products, which in Europe are not required to be separated from the organic waste at the end of their lifespan.

Today, Europe is the biggest consumer of dairy products in the world, with an average of 261 kg per year, according to data provided by FAO in 2011. This results in the generation of a large volume of waste, primarily high-density polyethylene bottles. Notes AIMPLAS, “This material is completely recyclable and its post-consumption management should not be a problem, but in fact, only 10 percent to 15 percent of it is recycled, according to data in 2012.”

“Milk bottles and bags are packages that can be used only once, so a big volume of waste is generated. In addition, exhaustive high-temperature washing is required during recycling to eliminate any waste products and subsequent odors.” Therefore, AIMPLAS notes, it would be especially beneficial for the dairy industry to have access to packages that can be thrown away with organic waste when empty.

One of the main challenges researchers must overcome is getting a biodegradable material that complies with the same requirements of traditional packages, including resistance to thermal treatments such as sterilization or pasteurization. For this, researchers hope to be able to modify the current commercial biodegradable materials through reactive extrusion to overcome the thermal limitations.

BIOBOTTLE is a European Project in the Seventh Framework Programme, with a fund of €1 million. Seven companies and technological centers from five different countries work with AIMPLAS.

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