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A Material to Unlock Plastic-free Paper Packaging for Food

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Milky power: Dairy protein breaks the chains of plastic packaging waste

Picture a world liberated from single-use plastics, all thanks to casein – a humble milk protein. EU-funded researchers have harnessed it to develop biodegradable and water-soluble food packaging solutions.

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Back in 2007, a teacher-researcher in Saint Etienne, France, embarked on a quest to create a new generation of bio-based and water-soluble plastics. His secret ingredient? Casein, a protein derived from dairy production. With over 150 years of use in various material applications, casein was transformed into a novel plastic pellet through an extrusion process. Together with an entrepreneur, he founded Lactips in 2014, focusing on sustainable innovation.

The first certified natural polymer for a sustainable future

As Lactips approaches its 10th anniversary, the company remains dedicated to preserving nature by enabling the removal of plastic waste. “Our groundbreaking product, CareTips®, is the first natural polymer based on 100 % bio-based ingredients. Fully biodegradable in all environments, it offers a valuable alternative to improve current plastic solutions in select high-value markets,” notes Alexis von Tschammer, CEO at Lactips. CareTips® proved to be highly effective in biodegradation tests, dissolving and degrading in both hot and cold water without causing toxicity or damage to the environment. The material has also received certifications from TÜV Austria for freshwater biodegradability and OK compost HOME conformity. After a 28-day testing period, the biodegradation rate reached around 80 %. “By using this water-soluble coating material, waste and microparticles are eliminated. As CareTips® dissolves in water, it enables the pulp to seamlessly filter through without any sticky residues and microparticles, achieving an exceptional 99.75 % paper fibre recovery rate,” explains von Tschammer.

A revolutionary food packaging solution

The EU-funded ECOLACTIPACK project, fuelled by Lactips’ vision, set out to transform paper-based food packaging. “Our goal was to create recyclable, biodegradable and compostable packaging that meets food preservation standards while reducing plastic waste,” remarks von Tschammer. To this end, Lactips developed a unique technology to coat paper with their bio-based material (CareTips®), enhancing its barrier properties and making it suitable for food contact even with recycled paper. This innovative solution meets the need for sustainable packaging in take-away food, pet food, coffee pods and other daily use packaging heavily consumed and discarded by consumers. “To cater to all types of food packaging, Lactips will implement its material in wet-barrier and long-shelf-life products, where the Lactips layer will be protected from the food by another layer,” states von Tschammer. Plastic has been widely used for a long period to make paper packaging waterproof and sealed. However, they pose a problem as they interfere with the recyclability and biodegradability of cellulose fibres. Plastic Free Paper™ from Lactips eliminates the use of plastics in paper packaging, thereby helping protect marine biodiversity. Being easily recyclable and biodegradable without leaving any microparticles, when ending up in water, Plastic Free Paper™ from Lactips does not pollute neither disrupt delicate ecosystems. “Plastic Free Paper™ is the first fully recyclable and compostable paper packaging solution without plastic or controversial substances. This innovative product, made of cellulose fibres coated with CareTips®, a natural polymer based on casein, is the first generation of heat-sealable packaging paper without plastic,” highlights von Tschammer. What’s more, it provides an effective barrier against grease, oxygen, aromas and mineral oils.

Overcoming challenges and innovating for the future

Implementing the coating technology in large-scale food packaging production required overcoming obstacles such as adhesion, coating uniformity, cost-effectiveness and water solubility. Through ECOLACTIPACK, Lactips made significant progress in addressing these issues. Remaining challenges include balancing cost considerations with desired performance, end-use requirements and recyclability, and providing a 100 % bio-based coating solution that does not reduce current production outputs with existing solutions. Lactips is devoted to addressing environmental concerns related to microparticles and adapting their formulations to meet application demands and emerging regulations. The company remains committed to transitioning towards a microplastic-free world by 2030. “Our goal has been to overcome the biggest challenge faced by paper-based food packaging – ensuring food preservation at the same level as plastic multilayers while facilitating its recycling,” concludes von Tschammer.


ECOLACTIPACK, Lactips, food packaging, CareTips®, casein, plastic waste, biodegradable, water-soluble, Plastic Free Paper™

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