New Sustainable Coating for Food Packaging based on Starch and Seaweed Extracts

The Paint Research Association (PRA) are working with a Consortium of European SME Partners, another leading European RTD and an International Large Enterprise with funding from the European Commission under the Framework Programme Seven (from the Research Executive Agency) to develop a novel sustainable, eco-friendly food packaging coating product made from seaweed extracts and starch, which will be applied to paper and cardboard in the form of a spray.  

This new sustainable and cost effective coating will replace the current petroleum derived coating products, and thus improve the sustainability and biodegradability characteristics of both coatings and the final food packaging developed.

Food packaging coatings (on paper wraps, cartons and cardboard) are essential to providing a physical barrier to protect food products in the packaging container during storage and transportation.  Current packaging coatings are based on petrochemical derived waxes and polymers.

However, with increasing petroleum costs and recent instability and volatility in some oil producing countries, the food packaging sector is searching for an alternative reliable and sustainable coating product. This would also promote the recycling characteristics of spent paper food packaging – currently this is difficult, as petroleum based coatings commonly used for this purpose reduce the compostability of paper and increase the difficulty of recycling these products.

The need for enabling technology

Seaweed extracts have been used to develop sustainable barrier materials for food and pharmaceuticals products but never applied as coatings for packaging products since their physical characteristics are not adequate – specifically their poor flexibility and limited strength. This project will formulate seaweed extracts with starch and starch derivates to overcome these limitations for application to paper packaging.  Starch derivates are already used to manufacture sustainable packaging products with good flexibility and strength characteristics.  With new science on the blending and formulation of seaweed extracts and starch we think that we will overcome the current limitations of seaweed extract coating technology and we will be able to develop a new competitive sustainable coating for specific food packaging applications.