1 März 2016

PHA-Modified PLA Thermoform Materials for Sustainable Packaging Applications

Metabolix on ways to create biobased and compostable food packaging


a-PHA modified PLA Thermoform Clamshell Container

A market trend is emerging to use sustainable packaging materials for food service and consumer products driven by the rising environmental awareness among consumers for improved biodegradability. For instance, the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s 2015 Trends Report found there is an increasing focus on compostable packaging. Our amorphous-PHA (a-PHA) materials provides us with a potentially significant option in this application space.

At Metabolix, we are focusing on ways to create biobased and compostable food packaging options using a-PHA-modified PLA (polylactic acid). Over the past few months, we have explored PHA-modified PLA as an attractive material for making thermoformed containers such as those used for food packaging. Recently, we successfully completed a large-scale trial for biobased, compostable, clear “clamshell” containers using a-PHA-modified PLA that both process well and display the expected properties for “carry out” food and other consumer packing uses.

Metabolix a-PHA modifiers are distinct in that they maintain the high biocontent and compostability of PLA. Because our a-PHA modifiers are not a miscible plasticizer, they will not significantly lower the glass transition temperature (Tg) so the processing window is not compromised. During the thermoforming process, the plastic sheet – or film – is heated to a pliable forming temperature and formed to a specific shape or mold. Because PHA is inherently compatible with PLA, blending is straightforward and because the polymers have similar refractive indices, clarity is maintained – resulting in a clear packaging product.

As consumers, brand owners and regulations continue to drive incentives to utilize sustainable packaging materials for carry out options as well as divert food waste from landfills, Metabolix anticipates working closely with customers to create sustainable packaging options utilizing a-PHA-modified PLA.

Source: Metabolix, press release, 2016-01-25.
Author: Lynne Brum


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