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easy to recycle packaging: paper packaging with barriers

In our pursuit of responsible product design, we continuously enhance the environmental performance and functionality of barrier paper packaging. This commitment drives our collaboration with R&D partner DELSCI, propelling us toward the next generation of recyclable paper packaging solutions.

Sustainable packaging must deliver maximum functionality while ensuring optimal product protection without environmental harm, aligning with circular economy principles.  We delve into the promising realm of non-composite recyclable packaging for food and consumer goods. Reducing waste and pollution hinges on the vital element of recycling in the circular economy. Unfortunately, a significant portion of today's packaging remains unrecycled. The sorting process, demanding in recycling, becomes especially challenging in the flexible packaging sector, where composite packaging—made of inseparable layers with additional functionality—is prevalent.

Composite packaging, while enhancing product protection and shelf life, poses a hurdle to the circular economy, as many countries lack the necessary recycling systems for these complex laminates. The ideal solution is barrier paper that provides necessary functional benefits without compromising the recyclability of the packaging, and we design such packaging for various food and consumer goods products.

different paper pouches for noodles, rice, sweets, lollies are standing on a table.

base papers need to work in unison with barriers to facilitate recycling 

Paper alone cannot provide sufficient functionality for many packaging applications. This is why a barrier is added to paper packaging as a simple way to achieve the desired functionality. These necessary barriers allow for the required performance against oxygen, aroma, fat, and water vapor. However, as stated, they make recycling difficult or impossible. Therefore, the optimal solution is barrier paper, which will offer the required functional benefits, without negatively affecting the recyclability of the packaging.

Fiber-based packaging is often laminated with other materials such as plastic, aluminum, or coated with resin. Adding such materials often results in a product that cannot be recycled, and the packaging ends up in incineration or landfills. It is therefore essential to not only produce a great base paper but also apply a functional coating that allows the final product to be easily recycled. Such paper packaging facilitates recycling and provides options for companies looking into substituting their multi-material packaging options.


building a better base and a better barrier

Our R&D specialists and paper technologists actively innovate to strike a balance between shelf life, product safety, and environmental impact.  Our goal is to develop packaging that eliminates the need for material separation, increasing the likelihood that the packaging will be recycled. 

As an alternative to composite packaging, non-composite packaging has emerged as a revolutionary logical and ecological solution. A non-composite is defined in different ways in different countries. The 95/5 rule is currently the strictest definition of what is considered a mono-material and is relevant in Germany. This means that only 5% of the total packaging can consist of a barrier and inks. The barrier cannot be a separate layer but must be intertwined with the base paper. In many European countries, the categorization of a mono-material is between 50/50 and 85/15 and the USA follows the 85/15 threshold.

One way to overcome this is to make the base packaging thicker so that the barrier as a percentage of the whole is less. We believe this is not the right way to do things and goes against the larger objective of reducing packaging waste and creating sustainable solutions. 

Developing such a thin and functional coating requires a very high level of innovation and expertise. The better performance a base paper has, the less coating material it needs to be functional. This is why it is essential that packaging base papers be high quality and be designed specifically for different use cases.

© Chris Guetl

Developing such a thin and functional barriers requires a very high level of innovation and expertise. The barrier can only be a small percentage of the overall packaging.

flexible paper packaging for a circular economy

Creating non-composite paper packaging with functional barriers presents multiple challenges, including adhesion, printability, processability, yield, heat-sealability, transparency, and food contact compliance. Our R&D department tackles these challenges by developing specialty paper that meets mechanical properties and barrier functions while maintaining an excellent ecological profile and processability on existing packaging lines.

Looking Ahead

Developing recyclable and functional packaging is a formidable task, but it's a challenge we embrace to revolutionize paper. Stay tuned for the next article in our Recyclable Packaging series, where we explore the art and science behind the perfect coating, a crucial step in our journey toward sustainable solutions.

about delsci

DELSCI is a research organization that invents eco-conscious paper for food and non-food packaging. We’re a team of scientists and technologists on a mission to empower people to consume responsibly. This means replacing plastic (wherever possible) with functional paper that works harder than ever before and helps protect the environment and keeps our oceans free of plastic.

learn more

herwig delsci

Interested in switching to recyclable function paper packaging?

We would love to hear from you!

Kirchberger Herwig, Managing Director · DELSCI  I  +43 7229 776-552


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