LUCENSE, manager of the INNOPAPER cluster, is partner in the BIOBOARD project funded by the European Community´s under the SEVENTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (FP7/2007-2013) - Grant Agreement nº 315313, aimed at producing materials with increased recyclability for food and beverage packaging.
At present about 7 million tonnes of coated paper, paperboard and cardboard are manufactured worldwide annually. The standard coating material currently used is polyethylene (PE). New environmentally-friendly materials offering similar food protection performance to their conventional plastic counterparts are needed to reduce the dependency on fossil fuel based plastics and to produce recyclable solutions. On the other hand, the agrofood industry generates large amounts of residues. Over 20 million tonnes of whey, a by-product from cheese making and about 65,000 tonnes of dried juice protein and 140,000 tonnes of dried potato pulp both of which are by-products from starch production are discarded annually in Europe.
Past research revealed that whey protein coating can provide bio-degradable barrier layers that can replace existing plastic coatings in multilayer packaging and enhance their recyclability. BIO-BOARD is a sustainable barrier coating material for paper and paper-board based packaging for both solid and liquid food products and it is based on proteins such as whey and residues from potato, and can be processed via extrusion. Through BIO-BOARD, a tailored coating system based on the renewable raw material derived from agrofood waste and its technological application will be developed for extrusion coating paper, paperboard and cardboard to produce materials with increased recyclability for food and beverage packaging.
In paper industry production, innovative technologies has enabled in the last years to make step forward, mainly in terms of productivity and reduction of environmental impacts. Papermills of the industrial paper district of Lucca are among the companies showing the higher performance in productivity and efficient use of resources (especially water and energy) in Europe. One of the current field of research is the study of raw materials (cellulose and recycled fiber) which besides affecting the efficiency of paper production, it highly impacts on product quality.
The Centro Qualità Carta laboratory, as part of the Innovation Pole Innopaper, is developing knowledge on cellulose fibers and packaging papers , in order to:
- improve the classification of raw materials for the production of paper in order to produce more recyclable packaging,
- develop a methodology for a better characterization of packaging paper intended for contact with food,
with the overall objective to support product innovation for the benefit of companies joining the INNOPAPER innovation cluster, customers and paper business.