Flexible approach to natural packaging

Innovia Films’ biodegradable, compostable and flexible packaging material, NatureFlex, is an integral part of a packaging first for an Australian producer.

Based in the Blue Mountains in NSW, local gingerbread biscuit company Gingerbread Folk, is the brainchild of former architect, turned biscuit-maker, Karen Sharman and her husband, Dominic Mason.

Two years ago they decided to make their gingerbread business as sustainable as possible from the sourcing of the ingredients through to the packaging.

The NatureFlex pack used for the Gingerbread Folk range of biscuits is the first of its kind in Australia to be certified compostable and carries the ‘seedling’ logo to confirm this.

To be certified the material must undergo a stringent testing regime, carried out by independent accredited laboratories only, in order to confirm that their inclusion will have no negative effect on soil or compost quality.

NatureFlex was an obvious solution for the product’s packaging as the film begins life as a natural product – wood – and breaks down in a home compost bin (or industrial compost environment) within a matter of weeks.

The packaging also offers advantages for packing and converting with inherent deadfold and anti-static properties, high gloss and transparency, resistance to grease and oil, good barrier to gases and aromas, and a wide heat-seal range.

Outlining why Gingerbread Folk opted for NatureFlex, Karen said that “we were looking for environmentally sound packaging to compliment our all-natural ginger-bread and ethical business philosophy.

“We tried many films but loved the look and feel of NatureFlex and found the material’s properties the most suitable for our purposes. The key factor was home-compostability because we wanted to show the Australian public that it was acceptable to put these bags in their own home compost bins.”

Making it natural

Packsys, an Australian based company, is the converter of the NatureFlex film in this application. Packsys’ Clive Jacobs said that “as a plastic packaging converter we have an obligation and responsibility to promote and advise our customers of the compostable and sustainable substrates available.

“NatureFlex, out of all the available materials, suits itself extremely well to automated production like flow-wrapping or bag making. It requires very little machine adjustment, can run in harmony with conventional materials through the same machine, and is also a very easy material to print and convert. Speeds are not reduced so conversion costs remain on par with other substrates.”

The first NatureFlex films (NP and NE families) were launched in January 2003 and were heralded as the most fundamental development in cellulose films for 40 years.

In 2006, the launch of two new grades NVS (semi-permeable flow-wrap film for chilled food applications) and NM (metallised film aimed primarily at twistwrapping applications), took place.

In 2007 NVL and NVLW (clear and white films for label applications) were launched.

Innovia Films’ next generation of its flexible, compostable film, NatureFlex NK was launched at the end of 2008.

The new NatureFlex NK film offers not only biodegradability and compostability, but also a moisture barrier approaching that of co-extruded OPP.

According to the company, this means it has the best moisture barrier of any bio-polymer film currently available, which has been achieved through Innovia Films’ unique coating technology. NatureFlex NK is a transparent, general purpose packaging grade suitable for various applications including biscuits, cereals, crisps and snack bars.

The new product is also ideal for lamination to other biofilms. NatureFlex NK is available in 20, 23, 30, 45 micron thicknesses and can be used for a variety of pack formats – VFFS, flow wrap, twistwrap and overwrap. “Until now compostable packaging materials have only been used in applications where their inherent permeability was an advantage.

This excluded them technically from significant areas of the industry requiring an excellent barrier. Now however, with NatureFlex NK, we can open up to mainstream markets such as dried foods and snacks.

“In addition, converters can use NatureFlex NK as a basis for delivering further flexible ‘bio-solutions’, by associating it with compatible biofilms such as thermoplastic starches and copolyesters,” said Innovia Films’ global marketing manager for sustainable technologies, Andy Sweetman.

NatureFlex has also been chosen by Nestlé UK to wrap one of its signature confectionery brands, Quality Street. Having supplied Nestlé UK for many years with its coloured Cellophane products, Innovia Films was keen to meet customer demand when a move towards compostable packaging was sought for Quality Street.

Nestlé UK approached Innovia Films to develop a range of certified compostable films to match, as closely as possible, the existing range of coloured Cellophane films.

“Reduced or more sustainable packaging is a key priority for Nestlé and we are delighted that the NatureFlex colour-film range will help Quality Street customers and consumers reduce waste and, at the same time, ensure consumers are still able to recognise this well-loved brand,” said Nestlé Confectionery UK marketing director, David Rennie.

Innovia Films will be showcasing NatureFlex on its stand in the Bioplastics Pavilion at AUSPACK 2009, 16 to 19 June at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park.

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