Sorting the board from the plastic

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

New advances in modified atmosphere packaging highlights research into barrier board options
New advances in modified atmosphere packaging highlights research into barrier board options
The launch of a plastics-containing pressed paperboard tray that can be gas-flushed as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) has highlighted the high level of current research and development around composites and other barrier board options – and the recycling challenges posed by some of these packs.

AR Packaging Group in Sweden has claimed to have commercialised the first gas-tight pressed board tray, offering a shelf-life of at least 18 days for chilled foods in MAP conditions. At group company CC Pack, which produces the tray, managing director Åke Larsson told Food Manufacture it consisted of 90% paperboard and around 10% polyethylene terephthalate. “As such, it is recyclable in Scandinavia in the liquid carton stream and can be classified as ‘widely recycled’.”

Under the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) system in the UK, board-and-plastics beverage cartons are designated ‘widely recycled at recycling points – check locally kerbside’.

Kerbside collections

According to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, the proportion of UK local authorities accepting liquid cartons in kerbside collections reached 67% by 2017.

With some UK retailers boasting how much plastics packaging they have eliminated, and others vowing to exclude plastics altogether, the pressure to create viable paper-based alternatives is intense.

However, packs with a significant polymer content can contaminate the ‘paper and board’ recycling stream, leading the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) to issue new recyclability guidelines earlier this year.

Proportion of plastic

Key advice included keeping the proportion of plastics to 5% or below of pack weight, if the item was destined for the paper and board recycling stream, and if the plastics component could not be separated from the board.

“Many people want to say their product is ‘recyclable’,”​ said Andy Barnetson, CPI director of packaging affairs, who claimed some board firms refuse to comply with the 5% plastics limit.

Liquid cartons have been recycled at a Sonoco mill in West Yorkshire, for several years now, and other mills are considering reprocessing paper/plastics composites, said the CPI.

Meanwhile, with Government trying to get to a simple nationwide binary statement on whether a pack can be recycled, beverage cartons and other composite packs could struggle to reach a point where all local authorities accept them for kerbside collections.

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