ITENE produces new flexible packaging structures for food applications

July 10, 2024

flexible packaging

El NEFLEXAR project, financed by IVACE+i and executed by ITENE between June 2023 and June 2024, it has developed flexible single-material structures based on polyolefins, polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE). The main objective of the project has been generate recyclable materials with high barrier, mechanical resistance and processability, that comply with recyclability regulations and sustainability trends.

Saul Calabuig, technical manager of the project at ITENE, states that “the new structures have been designed not only to maintain the integrity of the product during packaging and handling, but also to achieve productivity levels comparable to conventional packaging structures.”

Flexible structures for food packaging with improved barrier and mechanical properties

The materials developed in NEFLEX They present optimized structures, reducing the complexity of the packaging to facilitate its management and make its recycling effective. This advance has been achieved through functional coatings, which provide the barrier and thermal resistance properties required for the optimal and efficient packaging of foods of different nature and demands. Furthermore, the development of thermoplastic matrices in polyolefins has been optimized, improving their mechanical and barrier properties against water vapor and oxygen.

The research project has been developed through two strategic lines: the application of advanced coatings using printing techniques such as flexography and gravure, thus avoiding the need to resort to co-extrusions and structures of greater complexity and lower recyclability, and the formulation of grades improved extrusion processes using additives and fillers for thermoplastic matrices. This approach has made it possible to reduce structural complexity and significantly improve the mechanical and barrier properties of packaging structures.

“Our goal has been to create practical and effective solutions, which not only meet current environmental guidelines, but also drive a positive change towards more sustainable and efficient packaging. This seeks to demonstrate the viability of the alternatives from the transformer to the end user,” adds Saúl Calabuig.

The applications evaluated with these structures include sectors as diverse as snacks and nuts, fruit purees and sliced ​​products, standing out in all cases for their processability and ease of recycling without compromising the useful life of the packaged product.

The progress of the NEFLEXAR project contributes significantly to the transition towards a more sustainable and efficient packaging model, in line with the objectives of the circular economy. The new flexible recyclable structures offer a viable solution to comply with environmental regulations and reduce the impact of plastic on the environment without affecting the product value chain.

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