There is rapidly increasing demand for packaging materials that give even greater protection to their contents. Functional additives are an important technology in meeting this demand for greater product protection in the plastic packaging market. A functional additive modifies the properties of packaging to impart desirable or beneficial functions.
According to a new report, “The Future of Functional Additives and Barrier Coatings for Plastic Packaging to 2018,” from Smithers Pira, many types of functional additives are used for plastic packaging, including antistatic agents, heat and UV stabilizers, impact modifiers, clarifying agents, blowing agents, brightness agents, impact modifiers, antioxidants, antimicrobial agents, oxygen scavengers, anti-block agents, and various other processing aids.
According to the Smithers Pira report, oxygen scavengers are the largest of the functional additives used in plastic packaging, making up a 57% value share of the plastic packaging market. Oxygen scavengers help to extend product life and improve product appearance by absorbing and removing any oxygen left in the closed packaged product. In recent years, innovations have enabled oxygen scavengers to be impregnated into laminates, cards, films, bottles, plastic lids, and closures.
The technology has been widely used in PET beer bottles, often incorporated into closures or barrier materials. The growth in ready meals consumption has presented further opportunities for oxygen scavengers, with Japan dominating the ready meals market for oxygen scavengers. Oxygen scavengers are also growing in pharmaceutical packaging, propelled by industry demands because of regulatory pressures, cost-cutting exercises, and the need to enhance patient care.
Following oxygen scavengers, UV stabilizers make up the second largest value share of functional additives in the plastic packaging market, accounting for 12%. UV or light stabilizers are added to plastic packaging to protect the package and their contents from the damaging effect of ultraviolet and infrared radiation from sunlight. Protection from UV radiation can be important in plastic packaging as UV radiation can stimulate molecules to an extent so as to break their chemical bonds that can release highly reactive radicals, capable of destroying other molecules.
Demand for barrier PET bottles that offer protection against UV light is rising, as light in this range is harmful to many of the nutrients in a product such as vitamins, lipids, and fatty acids. Milk bottles pose a particular challenge for PET when it comes to providing UV protection, as the vitamins in milk—especially vitamins B2 and B12— are highly sensitive to UV light.
In third place, antistatic additives account for 11.9% value market share of functional additives in the plastic packaging market. An antistatic additive is a chemical added to a plastic part for the purpose of eliminating or lessening static electricity. Antistatic additives act to permit the body or surface of the polymeric material to be slightly conductive, thus preventing the formation of static charges and deterring the fixation of dust.
Polymers can accumulate static charge on their surface as they move through shear inducing production equipment. This positive or negative static buildup can hinder production operations and degrade final part performance for its intended use.
Antistatic packaging is a relatively mature sector in which demand tends to follow demand for electronics and electrical products.
Plastic additive demand growth is rising faster than overall plastic packaging demand growth as converters look for lower-cost solutions, which additives can provide. As consumer demand for greater protection of products continues to rise, the market for functional additives in plastic packaging can be expected to continue to grow in tandem.