Sustainability is one of the biggest trends of our time, permeating all aspects of life. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of packaging and often base their purchasing decisions on the packaging used. The topic of sustainability also plays a key role for companies in terms of economic efficiency as well as social and environmental responsibility. In addition, politics and commerce have made significant headway in driving the sustainability agenda forward. However, sustainability is just one packaging consideration — it is equally important to ensure a high level of product protection and consumer safety.
Against this backdrop, the demand for custom sustainable packaging solutions is steadily growing, placing new requirements on packaging development. At Fraunhofer IVV, we are rising to these challenges and developing safe packaging concepts that respect the principles of the circular economy. Our research focuses on reducing the quantity of plastics in packaging, designing recyclable packaging solutions made from recycled materials or bio-based raw materials, such as paper and biopolymers.
In keeping with current legislation, one of the packaging industry’s main focuses is cutting down on the use of fossil-based resources. As a natural, renewable raw material, paper is a popular alternative to traditional plastic packaging. Our work involves adapting property and processing profiles to target applications. Adding barrier and sealing properties (functionalization) while minimizing the use of non-fiber-based materials very often plays a decisive role in our developments. We have built up extensive expertise in this area through our work in numerous research and industry projects.
Our network also enables us to assess recyclability downstream in a targeted way.
Reduce, reuse, recycle — these are the three pillars underlying sustainable packaging development. One solution to the issue of sustainability is to replace plastics with bio-based materials, thereby reducing the use of fossil-based resources. Other advantages of bio-based materials include their climate-friendly image and the fact that they are often biodegradable.
Our research aims to address the challenges surrounding availability, costs and material requirements such as specific barriers. We are working on developing alternative sources of raw materials, such as residual materials and fast-growing biomass, which are not in competition with food or animal feed. For example, our projects focus on the use of algae or fungi. We investigate the suitability of new raw materials for biopolymers and bio-based coatings, subsequently modifying and optimizing these during the development phase of the specific application.
The European Green Deal, the German Packaging Act and the demands of commerce, or even businesses’ own sustainability goals, all point to the fact that recyclability is key to the future of sustainable packaging development. Monomaterial packaging has an important role to play here; however, it is not without its challenges. Poor barrier properties mean a shorter product shelf life. Optimized machine concepts must be revised and established material properties redefined.
We work with you to develop high-performance, recyclable monomaterials with novel coatings — guaranteeing a long product shelf life despite the use of monomaterials. We also support you in validating the properties of your current packaging material, using mechanical measurements and permeation tests to establish a basis for comparison. We also evaluate the specific requirements of your packaged goods, using appropriate computational models where necessary. Overpacking as a result of outdated requirement profiles can therefore be avoided and packaging concepts can be optimized further. We also help you in the process of implementing new materials, carrying out the initial machinability tests at our test facilities and supporting you in making the necessary adjustments to your facilities.
Reusing recycled materials in packaging is also particularly important for the development of a holistic circular economy. The legal requirements for using recycled materials, including in applications with food contact, and changes in the properties of recycled materials (e.g., smell, color and purity) are topics that we tackle in our projects and research.
We characterize recycled materials for you and analyze their properties and workability in various film structures. We also help you to develop concepts that incorporate the use of recycled materials in your packaging. By developing functional barriers in new material structures, we help you ensure a high level of product protection while reusing recycled materials. New compliance and safety checks are required whenever recycled materials are used in food packaging and we can provide practical support in this respect.