The need to find more sustainable packaging and printed materials is a real challenge for the industry. Two German innovations in this field are offering new alternatives for printed packaging.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research has been developing high-barrier coatings for many years. However, until now, they have not been bio-based or biodegradable.

It has now launched an organic coating that makes fresh food packaging compostable. The solution addresses the main problem of bio-based plastics, i.e. the lack of good barriers.

The Fraunhofer Institute’s new bio-based coatings, under the bioORMOCER® name, can improve the performance of biodegradable packaging. This will help biodegradable packaging products to compete with non-recyclable, multi-layer films.

Dr. Sabine Amberg-Schwab, Head of the Functional Coatings Department at the Fraunhofer Institute, said, “The huge environmental problems caused by non-recyclable plastics made us very concerned and we asked ourselves the question: how can we contribute with our development work to making packaging materials more fit for purpose?”

The solution was to use organic waste, such as fruit residues, to make the coatings. Dr. Amberg-Schwab continued, “Our coatings therefore do not compete with food crops. From these biological residues, biopolymers are extracted which are chemically modified to function as new bio-based and bio-degradable precursors for our coatings. The coatings are transparent and drastically improve the ability of bio-based plastics to preserve food, while still being compostable.”

An alternative solution has been developed by Feldmuehle Uetersen GmbH. It has developed an innovative barrier coating for paper packaging produced from white pulp fibres from certified forestry.

The solution has been developed to answer the problem of foodstuff contamination from the gaseous mineral oils used in printing inks on surrounding packaging.

Instead, the Feldmuehle products show that effective protection against mineral oil migration can be integrated into food packaging without the use of film and composite materials. The solution is already being used by Peter Kölln GmbH & Co KGaA, a German manufacturer of breakfast cereals.

Robert Bethke, Head of Packaging Purchasing at Kölln, explained, “The prerequisite was to maintain the well-known traditional packaging, which underlines the natural character of our product and is part of the brand identity.”

The company also wanted to improve quality control without impacting the existing filling lines. The new coating makes this possible. What’s more, the paper is disposed of via the normal waste paper recycling process.