• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Wheat straw proves to be a viable packaging option

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Oct 25, 2022

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Fiber-based packaging continues to grow in popularity in the food industry, but the emergence of wheat straw is creating another viable option.

Fiber-based packaging, from hemp to bamboo to paper, has all found a place in the food and beverage industry as it offers more environmentally friendly options than traditional packaging.

COPAR business development manager Colin Farrell said wheat straw offers a more economical and environmentally friendly option in the fiber-based packaging space.

“Wheat straw is plentiful and at the moment it’s basically left on the ground by farmers,” he said.

For example, sugarcane is another material used in the production of fiber-based packaging, but there is an inherent problem with sugarcane, it is also used in the production of ethanol.

“We looked at sugarcane as an option, but because it’s sold and used for other purposes, it’s an expensive resource to maintain,” Farrell said.

“Essentially that’s what makes us attractive, we’re one with the new style and Australia being a big supplier of wheat is a perfect market for that.”

“The economy is much more interesting because there will be no shortage of raw materials. Especially in times of price inflation. I think the prices of paper packaging are also increasing year by year.

The rising price of wood has also had a similar impact on any packaging that uses wood or a mixture of wood.

“Wheat straw is already left on the ground by farmers, and it always will, so there will be plenty of supply and that should create stable prices,” Farrell added.

“In terms of wheat straw sampling, it’s been proven to work, but there are a lot of little nuances that companies need for products.”

These nuances mean that COPAR is constantly looking to innovate and evolve its product offerings.

“We are looking at antimicrobial treatments to ensure its resistance to bacteria and will test for oil and water resistance. Typically, binder chemicals containing high levels of PFAS are used. We now have two options for possible alternatives, with testing underway at Newcastle University and overseas to ensure our PFAS levels are well below those required by internationally certified composting standards.” , Farrell said.

“These PFAS chemicals help bind the product, but there is some toxicity to that, and it has been there for many years. It’s in a lot of packaging and we’re working hard to eliminate that, especially in food contact packaging. »

PFAS chemicals, also known as “eternal chemicals”, are a complex group of manufacturing chemicals used in various food and beverage products, among others.

“It’s a big deal if you’re going to use paperboard or recycled paperboard because it may already contain PFAS, which creates an opportunity for us because we think wheat straw is in a great position to have a related product. to very low PFAS,” says Farrell.

“This is where the combination comes in, we make our packaging our way. Yes we will be using wheat straw but we have a research and development partnership with Newcastle University where we are looking at grape pomace, hemp and a range of other options so our products improve at over time.

COPAR was present at London Packaging Week as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of wheat straw fiber packaging.

Feedback from a previous show, held in Birmingham, encouraged COPAR to be more present during packaging week.

“London Packaging Week is a great opportunity for us,” said Farrell.

“Fibre-based packaging has attracted a lot of attention at other trade shows, so we thought it was the perfect time to get involved with London Packaging Week to follow leads and other suppliers of technology that will help us evolve our products for better quality. , because you need to continually evolve.

“These trade shows are always very popular and this is our first foray. We ensure that the COPAR CEO will be there to explain where we are as we push towards the start of commercial production next year.

Farrell said the initial success of fiber-based packaging, including wheat straw, in India gave COPAR the impetus to support adoption of the alternative packaging.

“This technology has generally been developed in India for this market and we believe it is suitable for wheat straw packaging. It’s a great combination because we have ample supplies of wheat straw in Australia, which is one of the reasons we’re bringing it here,” said Farrell.

“From my impressions and speaking with our partners in India, in terms of banning plastic and phasing out plastic, they started going down this road much earlier than the rest of the world. They looked for options to fiber and paper base.

As well as adopting Australian wheat straw for fiber-based packaging, COPAR is focusing on studying a range of other biomasses from Australia with researchers at Newcastle University.

“Grape pomace is another we’re looking for, hemp is another,” Farrell said.

“The one that is used the most is paper, then sugar cane and now we are moving to wheat straw.

“Wheat straw is simply the most economically viable and has other capabilities than paper. Paper is compostable, but it takes a long time, while wheat straw, we believe, has the ability to compost faster. »

It is also hoped that more compostable fiber-based packaging will also help reduce the environmental impact of ready-to-eat meals and single-use meal packaging, which have become increasingly popular in the consumer market.

“Ready-to-eat and take-out have both increased and the reliance on food delivery has increased and it doesn’t seem to be diminishing, so a range of packaging solutions that are better for the environment and suppliers is critical,” added Farrel.

“We can’t have the environmental issues of using plastics.”

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