ADCELLPACK project advances the use of cellulose-based materials in food packaging

By developing cellulose packaging material to be used in atmosphere packaging techniques, the European ADCELLPACK consortium is aiming to create an alternative to the use of oil-based packaging materials in food packaging, especially for cheese. The need for the development work arises from the increasing amounts of non-renewable oil-based packaging waste.

Centros Comerciales Carrefour, Distribuciones Juan Luna, Papelera de Brandia, Elastopoli Oy, Skymark and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, with ITENE as coordinator, will develop a new renewable solution that will maintain the freshness of a product and assure its food contact safety.

Life-style changes and the need for product differentiation have put pressure on the quality and sales appeal of food packaging. This has increased the amount of packaging material. At the moment, most food packaging material is of non-renewable, oil-based origin. According to EUROSTAT, domestic plastic packaging waste in Europe amounts to more than 15 million tonnes, of which 40% is disposed of and not recovered or recycled.

In order to increase the amount of bio-based food packaging materials, the European ADCELLPACK consortium is developing a thermoplastic wood-fibre-based packaging material for trays used primarily in packages of sliced cheese.

The new material will be designed to suit Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). The MAP technique is widely used for the preservation of fresh foods because it offers the product an increased shelf life. In this packaging technique, atmospheric air inside the package is replaced with the desired gas mixture. Common MAP packaging structures are based on non-renewable multilayer materials which are difficult to recycle.

The use of bio-based materials is a promising alternative in the packaging industry for reducing the environmental impact and the use of non-renewable resources. Materials based on cellulose can be an outstanding alternative to substitute materials currently used in MAP.

A fully sustainable solution will be developed that will maintain the freshness of the product and assure its food contact safety. The solution will provide actual or improved shelf life through the use of cellulosic materials and biodegradable polymers, with simplified production. There will be broad opportunity for use of the solution in several food products nowadays packaged using MAP.

ADCELLPACK is a two-year project that started at the beginning of November 2012. The budget is 1.4 million euros, and the project is financed by the EU (FP7-SME-2012 Research for the benefit of specific groups).

The consortium is based on a group of four SMEs – Distribuciones Juan Luna, S.L.U. (Spain), Papelera de Brandia, S.A. (Spain), Elastopoli Oy (Finland), and Skymark Packaging International Limited (UK); one large enterprise – Centros Comerciales Carrefour (Spain); and two relevant research centres – VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and ITENE Packaging, Transport and Logistics Research Center (Spain), the latter as coordinator of this initiative. All have expertise in paper production, bioplastics processing, conversion of packaging materials, and cheese production.

The research has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme managed by REA-Research Executive Agency under grant agreement number 315688.

Further information:

Antonio Monsalve, Marketing Department
tel. +34 96 182 00 00,

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Marja Juvonen, Senior Scientist
tel. +358 20 722 7430,

Further information on VTT:
Sakari Sohlberg, Manager, External Communications
Tel. 358 20 722 6744

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is a leading multitechnological applied research organization in Northern Europe. VTT creates new technology and science-based innovations in co-operation with domestic and foreign partners. VTT’s turnover is EUR 290 million and its personnel totals 3,100.