• Certified compostable paper trays for ready-to-eat meals with ecovio coating.
    Certified compostable paper trays for ready-to-eat meals with ecovio coating.

Australian food packaging manufacturer Confoil and BASF have developed DualPakECO – a certified compostable and dual ovenable food tray based on paper.

An alternative to conventional PET packaging for ready-to-eat meals, the paper tray is coated on the inside with BASF ecovio PS 1606, a partly bio-based and certified compostable biopolymer especially developed for coating food packaging made of paper or board, in a mono-layer extrusion process.

The trays have received food contact approval in accordance with international requirements and Australian standard AS4736-2006 certification. They are suitable for use in the microwave and oven, for ready-to-eat meals available as cold or frozen in supermarkets, as well as for catering and take-away from restaurants.

They show excellent barrier properties against fats, liquids and odours, helping to preserve freshness and flavours, say the manufacturers.

“We wanted to create a paper-based food tray that meets all the food industries’ requirements but with the added benefit that it is certified compostable,” said Alison Buxton, CEO of Confoil. “With BASF’s certified compostable biopolymer ecovio PS 1606 we have found the ideal component to take the next step towards sustainable solutions in our portfolio and to help our customers reach their sustainability targets at the same time. Our joint development represents a shift to paper-based and certified compostable material to support the Australian 2025 National Plastics Plan, which aims at reducing the impact of packaging on the environment.”

According to the manufacturers, the trays extend the end-of-life options for paper-based packaging by being organically recyclable, and can be commercially composted with the organic waste collected in organic waste bins, “thus supporting organics recycling of food residues and food-soiled packaging, which increases the diversion of food waste from landfill and incineration”.

Composting trials revealed that the DualPakECO trays break down into water, carbon dioxide and nutrient-rich compost within four to six weeks under commercial composting conditions, say the manufacturers.

The DualPakECO trays were introduced to the market at the Annual Conference 2022 of the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) in Glenelg, Australia, where AORA chairman Peter Wadewitz, said: “The Australian standards are the most stringent ones for compostable plastics in the world. Commercial composting is an integral part of a circular economy where organic waste can be turned into a valuable resource rather than be disposed of in landfill or incinerated. Compost from organic recycling can be used in agriculture to improve degraded soils and return organic matter to soils ensuring future productivity.”

The new packaging solution is suitable for organics recycling such as the Australian FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics, a kerbside collection service that allows food scraps to be added to the garden waste bin so it can be recycled into high-quality compost. Through the National Waste Policy Plan, Australia’s states and territories have committed themselves to increase FOGO collection services, agreeing to introduce them to all households and businesses by the end of 2023.

The paperboard for DualPakECO can easily be formed and allows for printability, say the manufacturers, confirming that the board is lightweight yet rigid enough for in-line production facilities. It is also said to offer secure sealing across a variety of film substrates and machinery. 

The BASF biopolymer also makes it possible to use recycled paper in food applications, due to its “high migration barrier qualities”

According to the manufacturers, the high content of renewable raw materials leads to a reduced material carbon footprint, which allows savings of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Composting is the most resource-efficient process for food waste recycling,” said Rowan Williams from Market Development Biopolymers at BASF. “This packaging solution supports a circular economy as it contributes to the diversion of food waste and food-soiled packaging from landfills and incineration, thus avoiding associated greenhouse gas emissions. Currently available PET food trays are not reusable, they are difficult and uneconomical to recycle mechanically – so in reality they mostly go to landfill or incineration. With Confoil we found the ideal partner to develop a solution that proves the feasibility of a food package that combines sustainability with high technical performance.” 

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