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Development and Commercialisation of a complete compostable film packaging system

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Nature Fresh (Development and Commercialisation of a complete compostable film packaging system)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-09-30

Only 14 % of plastic packaging is recycled. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste (mainly packaging) is dumped into oceans each year. Recycling these single-use disposable plastics is the best strategy to curb plastic pollution. The ideal would be a packaging film that is 100 % recycled or biologically decomposable. In response to this need, the EU-funded Nature Fresh project is developing an industrial compostable film packaging solution for the fresh food packaging markets (meats, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables). This solution includes the film material, labels and the full machine periphery to process and handle the compostable materials easy as processors are used to with conventional solutions. Targeting retailers, food processors and consumers. The project aims to commercialize its system by mid-2022.
In the light of the recently published ‘A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy’ document, all stakeholders involved in the lifecycle of plastic packaging are striving towards achieving a solution which could curb plastic pollution and its adverse impact on our lives and the environment. Consumers and retailers demand a packaging film which can be 100% recycled or can be completely biologically decomposed. Compostable plastics have the ability to break down, safely and relatively quickly, by biological means, into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment. There is a need of a totally compostable wrapping packaging solution (film, label and tray) along with an easy-to-use (and maintain) cost effective packaging machine.
In response to this market need, the project consortium led by Fabbri Group is developing a platform technology ‘Nature Fresh’ which is a completely compostable film packaging solution targeting specifically the fresh food packaging markets (meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables). Nature Fresh delivers retailers, food processors, and the common public direct environmental benefits and addresses a current opportunity to reduce the use of plastic. At the same time the product will assist in meeting sustainability initiatives. Through the project, the Consortium aims to carry out activities such as commercial scale manufacturing of the compostable films, design and development of the automatic wrapping machines, design and development of a compostable label and applicator system, gain regulatory approvals and conduct end-user trials to gain market acceptance and a swift market entry by Q2-2022.
The new compostable cling film Nature Fresh for automatic packaging has been optimized and tested on the newly developed wrapping machines. 3 different prototypes are being developed: 2 industrial machines, targeting the food processor market, and 1 retail machine. The 2 industrial machines have been already developed and tests are on-going for optimization. The technical drawing of the retail machine has been already finalized and the first prototypes are under construction.
Regarding the development of the scale, transportation and application unit of the Retail NF machine, as well as for the selection, evaluation and testing of the bio compostable labels with regards to processability, until now the following results were achieved:
-Designed all the transportation units to bring products from the automatic weighing system to the automatic wrapping machine using Nature Fresh film to pack products.
-Scale design and interface designed to weigh the product packed in Nature Fresh according the EU regulation, Including all electronics interfaces.
-Applicator design and XY-Axis design to print & apply automatically up to 2 labels on the top of a package and 1 on the bottom. Including all electronics interfaces
-Evaluation of industrial biocompostable labels
-Testing of industrial bio compostable labels with regards to printing quality/durability and to the adhesion to the Nature Fresh film compared to conventional labels
-Concept creation of common UI (User Interface) design for both machine parts, packaging and labelling to create an optimum user functionality
-Started programming of interfaces to control the scale, printing and application unit and programming of the UI
-Specification of prototype levels and components for each machine module as well as mounting guidelines for prototype components so every team is able to create the test rig at its site
-Ordering of prototype material
-Creation of testing scenario for field tests
-Started working on marketing concept to promote the EU project e.g. during the world packaging exhibition Interpack 2021
-Started working on route to market concept and adapted ESPERA blog with reports about the topic of compostability for the launch of Nature Fresh/Retail NF
-Ongoing market analysis, trend scanning and governmental regulation check with regards to compostable packaging material.
In relation to the implementation of WP6, 2 main tasks have been carried out during the period covered by this report: assessment of the European regulatory landscape related to compostability and food packaging and identification of the laboratory tests to be executed for the NatureFresh packaging solution. Work is also ongoing to evaluate the environmental profile of this final solution.
Nature Fresh system is targeted at fresh food packaging market, including flexible stretch film packaging for fresh food and being a complete solution providing the wrapping machines also, machine sub-sector market. In the light of the recent ‘A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy’ document, all sectors including consumers and retailers demand a packaging film which can be 100% recycled or can be completely biologically decomposed. Lately, significant R&D efforts have been devoted towards a compostable packaging however high production cost, inability to be processed using standard machines, thermal instability and poor mechanical properties have proven to be a limiting factor when compared to actual food packaging solutions. Furthermore, to our best knowledge, there is no compostable film available for automatic wrapping because the usual films are flexible but not stretchable. Therefore, there is a need of a totally compostable wrapping packaging solution along with easy-to-use and maintain, cost effective packaging machines. Nature Fresh aims to be that full solution. Nature Fresh will deliver direct environmental benefits and addresses a current opportunity to reduce the use of plastic. At the same time the product will assist in meeting sustainability initiatives. We will strengthen smart, innovative and sustainable plastics packaging, where our machine and film design respecting the needs of reuse, repair, and recycling, bringing growth and jobs to Europe and helps cutting EU's greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the project will benefit the consortium. Post commercialization, Fabbri Group will be the manufacturer of the compostable film and the automatic wrapping machines, TEIXPAC will be the distribution partner in Spain and ESPERA will be the contract manufacturer and supplier of the compostable label and the application system. This supply chain agreement will ensure that partners get benefits from the Project. In addition, throughout a 5 year plan, 48 new jobs will be created in the consortium. Once the technology has demonstrated its environmental impacts, we are confident that we can attract customers at a global scale increasing our benefit.
Standalone reel of Nature Fresh
Automac 55 Più NF
Automac 40 NF with the two reels option
Picture of a reel of Nature Fresh on a wrapping machine
fruit&veg wrapped with Nature Fresh film