The HiBarFilm2 Consortium will build on the success seen in our feasibility study project (HiBarFilm) and continue the development of high barriers monolayer films for food packaging applications.
Multilayer flexible films, used commonly at high volumes in food and medical packaging, are one of the most challenging plastic products to recycle, these materials represent nearly a quarter of the consumer packaging, yet only 6% is currently recycled (WRAP). These thin films are typically between three to twelve layers of different plastics adhere together, often meaning they are not economical to recycle or if recycled, can affect the quality of waste streams due to the mix of materials. Consequently these materials are commonly incinerated or sent to landfill.
Multilayer flexible films are currently a necessity in the food industry. Food production is an energy and resource intensive industry, to which plastic packaging has the potential to achieve a net positive environment impact by reducing food waste and increasing shelf-life. The combination of these multiple polymer layers is what provides the barrier performance – increasing the shelf life of products by controlling the transmission rate of oxygen and water, it is also responsible of the packaging’s physical and mechanical performance, such as puncture and tear resistance and heat sealability. There remains fine balance between the use of these often challenging to recycle, multi-layered single use plastics and an increase in food waste.
HiBarFilm2 has an ambitious objective to achieve the same barrier performance using a mono-materials polyolefin film as the currently used multilayer barrier films.
The consortium aims to accomplish this using plasma functionalised nanomaterials to increase barrier performance in two main areas of focus; firstly by mixing the nanomaterials directly into the polyolefin prior to filming, adding barrier properties to the film itself – both polyolefin films and compostable plastics will be used to also address the issue with contamination of films with food waste such as fats and blood; and secondly, by dispersing the nanomaterials into a barrier coating which can be applied to the polyolefin substrate. The advantage being the two solutions can be combined to increase the barrier performance further. By manufacturing mono-material flexible films the recyclability of these materials will increase, and value will be added.