Advances in Paper Packaging – SONAE MC success story

As part of the developments carried out in the FlexFunction2Sustain project, MC, leader in food retail in Portugal, together with the partner International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory – INL, has been focusing on its use case dedicated to improving the functional characteristics of paper-based substrates. In the search for more sustainable packaging alternatives, paper appears as an interesting solution, however in certain more demanding applications it presents lower performance, sometimes requiring lamination with plastic or other strategies that impact the recyclability potential of the final material.

The solution developed by INL consists of applying compounds of biological origin, such as shellac and polyvinyl alcohol, to paper substrates currently used in packaging production. The application of these compounds makes the paper more resistant, but also acts as a barrier to water, grease and oxygen. The increase in barrier capabilities allows the paper to be applied to a greater variety of food products, with more demanding packaging requirements. As demonstrators, prototype bags for vegetables and packaging for nuts were developed, products that are quite challenging due to their water content and fat content/moisture sensitivity, respectively.

For validation across the entire line, the possibility of industrializing this new solution was explored, together with the partner Coatema. The possibility of biodegradation of packaging was also evaluated, work carried out by the French Industrial Technical Center for Plastics and Composites (CT-IPC). Additionally, MC carried out studies with consumers to assess the perception of new paper-based packaging, as well as the understanding of associated sustainability messages. These studies reaffirmed the importance of sustainability for the consumer, especially the recognition and interest in messages and symbolism that help the consumer understand the packaging and how to treat it after use.

This articulation between partners demonstrates the relevance of working in partnership with entities from different sectors and realities, bringing together science, technology and industry.

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