Compostable packaging tape
Used plastic wrappings and containers make good fuel if incinerated, but are also dumped in huge quantities on landfill sites. Researchers are developing a compostable packaging tape that can be disposed of more cheaply, and ultimately creates less waste.
Companies often have to dig deep in their pockets to get rid of plastic packaging and the adhesive tape that holds it together. It costs about 100 euros to dispose of a metric ton of plastic waste by incineration and about 60 euros if it is dumped at a landfill site. “But there is another alternative – composting – that costs half as much as landfill disposal,” insists Dr. Ulrich Wesselmann, managing director of LogoTape, a company that manufactures self-adhesive tape products.
His company has teamed up with researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen to develop an entirely biodegradable packaging tape that, moreover, is made mainly from renewable resources. If oil prices continue to rise and manufacturing costs can be brought down, it will be possible to sell the “organic” packaging tape for about the same price as conventional products.
The new compostable tape is designed to meet the same requirements as present-day packaging materials. “We have to achieve the same mechanical properties, initial adhesive force and tear resistance that customers expect from ‘normal’ packaging tape,” explains Carmen Michels, who works in UMSICHT’s renewable resources department. “Other requirements include durability and printability. Unfortunately, the compostability requirement is not immediately compatible with many other technical properties.” For instance, the tape has to be highly resistant while in use, but break down rapidly as soon as it is thrown on the compost heap.
The compostable tape is particularly appropriate for use when the rest of the packaging material is also biodegradable, allowing the whole unit to be disposed of without separating individual materials. The UMSICHT researchers have therefore developed a granulate for a compostable film in collaboration with a private company, FKuR-Kunststoff GmbH. “The new material has met with considerable interest on the part of manufacturers of polyethylene film, because it offers comparable mechanical properties,” reports Carmen Michels. “A further advantage for the plastics processing industry is that the film, which consists of a combination of polylactic acid and polyester, can be processed in the same way as conventional blown film.”
Under normal conditions, the composted film breaks down to half its weight within about four weeks. The compostable film is already being marketed under the name Bio-Flex 219F. The biodegradable packaging tape will be available from do-it-yourself stores next year.
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