Plastic packaging provides major environmental benefits

Recycling plastic packaging

Plastic packaging has several environmental benefits due to their material properties.

For all retail sales, whether it takes place in stores or online, we need packaging. The products are packed for transportation from production to the point of sale and then home to the consumer. Food is then stored in the packaging until it is consumed. 

Plastic packaging has several environmental benefits due to their material properties. It provides excellent protection even if the packaging is thin and light and thus minimizes the use of resources and materials. Norner’s technology centre contributes to the development of new and improved packaging solutions in collaboration with Norwegian and international industry. 

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS 

Producing plastic packaging requires significantly less energy and emits less CO2 than materials such as glass, paper, or metal. Due to their low weight and volume, plastic packaging also saves large energy and transport costs. Packaging fulfils many functions, but the most important is increasing the food’s shelf life and hygiene while not affecting the food with substances from the packaging. 

PLASTICS ARE SAFE 

Norner is a leading research and development organisation in plastics and packaging and has organized several research projects focusing on chemicals in and migration from plastic packaging. These projects have focussed both on the possible chemicals contained in the plastic materials used for packaging as well as more complex issues of printing and lamination. 

Plastic packaging is basically produced from PP, PE, PET and PS and by conventional extrusion and moulding processes. In principle all grades intended for packaging and consumer goods are all food approved when these grades leave the polymer producer. The packaging producer may add colour pigments to the materials, but normally nothing more. This means that the materials contain only small amount of additives which are all fully approved by the strict EU food contact directive EU 10/2011. 

During our research we have cooperated with food and packaging producers and tested food contact migration of approximately fifty different packages. We have not found any substances of concern. It is also good to keep in mind that the mentioned materials has not been manufactured or added any substance of concern. They do, for instance, not contain phthalates, PAH’s or BPA.

HIGH QUALITY RECYCLING

Plastic has a low cost which provides affordable and effective packaging, but this is also a challenge as plastic has a low value as waste. Since more and more EU countries put a ban on landfills, the plastic waste must be treated as a resource. 

There is great potential for increasing material recycling of plastics significantly in the next few years through new technology and material knowledge. Norner is already strongly involved in this, and we want to play an important role. For plastic to be recycled, it must be separated into different materials, and this is strongly influenced by how the packaging or product is designed. New regulations and requirements for plastic recycling will make virgin plastic materials and products that are not designed for recycling more expensive. 

There is a large increase in the demand for recycled plastic with high purity and quality to produce new packaging. 

Norner, with its large pilot and development center in Telemark, will be strongly involved in this development.

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