Create safer packaging using edible polymer additives

From food to polymers

Invented in 1917 by Palsgaard founder, Einar Viggo Schou, the modern emulsifier was originally intended to reduce spattering in margarine. Since then, the use of emulsifiers has become much more widespread, with applications ranging from prevention of heat shock in ice cream, to viscosity control in chocolate, and aeration in baked goods – and most recently, as a functional polymer additive.

Ask a polymer producer or masterbatcher which emulsifiers he is using, however, he’ll most likely not know what you are talking about.

“Essentially, emulsifiers allow oil and water to mix and form a stable emulsion, which is very useful in food production”, explains Bjarne Nielsen, Business Development Manager for non-food products at Palsgaard. “When used in polymers, however, emulsifiers have different functionalities, making them suitable as anti-fogging and anti-static additives as well as dispersing aids”, he continues.

Commonly used food emulsifiers such as polyglycerol esters (E475) and mono- and diglycerides (E471), known as glycerol mono stearate (GMS) in the polymer industry, are not only safer and more sustainable, but also offer several additional benefits such as improved performance, faster production runs and a superior cost-in-use compared with conventional additives.

Traditionally, petrochemical-based additives have been used to deliver these functionalities but, as consumers become increasingly concerned about possible migration from the plastic packaging into food products, plastic manufacturers have started to explore safer and more sustainable solutions.

“Commonly used food emulsifiers such as polyglycerol esters (E475) and mono- and diglycerides (E471), known as glycerol mono stearate (GMS) in the polymer industry, are not only safer and more sustainable, but also offer several additional benefits such as improved performance, faster production runs and a superior cost-in-use compared with conventional additives,” says Bjarne Nielsen.

Palsgaard Specialises In bio based Food Grade Anti Static Additives For PE Films
Without anti-fogging additives water droplets stemming from the food will form on the inner surface of the film, creating an unclear layer that will make the product look less appealing. The moisture may also damage the food and affect its shelf-life. Anti-fogging additives don’t prevent the moisture from occurring but minimize the droplets and make them spread on the film surface.

Maintaining a clear view

Various types of polyethylene (PE) films are used in food packaging. But to create a more appealing presentation of the product and avoid adverse effects on food quality or freshness, the films need to be modified to prevent the formation of water droplets on the under surface.

When adding plant-based anti-fogging additives, the anti-fog will migrate to the polymer’s under surface and lower its surface tension, resulting in water no longer condensing as small, discrete droplets but as a continuous film of water. This will not only make the packaging more transparent but also prevent the collection of moisture, protecting product quality and extending shelf-life.

No more dusty packaging

Just as consumers tend to avoid products with an unclear, condensed under surface, so too, are they put off by dust-covered packaging. Due to the static nature of plastic packaging, it easily attracts dust, particularly in low humidity, and can potentially damage the aesthetic appeal of the product. In addition to attracting dust, the build-up of static charges in plastics can cause problems for plastic packaging manufacturers:

  • Film manufacturers, for example, face reduced production speed limits due to static problems during film rolling.
  • Manufacturers of plastic bottles, closures and containers are often faced with handling problems during stacking, as well as packaging instability and congestion on conveyer belts.
  • Static can also lead to difficulties in sealing packages for powdered foods.
  • Furthermore, extruded films used for packaging of consumer electronics must not be statically charged, as this can potentially damage the product.
Adding food-approved, plant-based anti-static additives to PE-film will prevent the content from sticking to the packaging, thereby making it easier to seal the film while relieving consumer concerns over their food coming into contact with chemical substances.

“Efficient anti-static additives can dissipate charge from a polymer surface and prevent a static charge build-up, which means that dust and other fine particles will not be drawn to the packaging surface and the product will maintain a clean and attractive appearance”, explains Bjarne Nielsen.

Anti-static additives work by migrating to the polymer surface, where they interact with ambient moisture, creating a conductive layer that can dissipate charge.

Safer colour dispersion

Supported by 100 years of experience in developing and perfecting emulsifiers used in food, Palsgaard’s R&D staff have unique insight into the molecular behaviour of the many different substances that make up emulsifiers. This has enabled the development of innovative, efficient, safe and sustainable possibilities for the polymer industry – and Palsgaard’s series of dispersing aids is a good example:

Palsgaard's polymer application centres has facilities for testing its bio-based and food-grade colour dispersing aids
Just as Palsgaard offers food manufacturers the possibility to have new products tested and developed in the company’s global application centres, so can polymer producers have their products tested with Palsgaard’s anti-fogging and anti-static additives as well as colour dispersing aids in the company’s large scale polymer application centre.

Traditionally, powdered, petrochemical-based waxes have been used to coat the colour pigments and help distribute them in the polymer product. Mixing the waxes with the expensive colour pigments, however, is a dusty affair. This is likely to be a concern for workplace safety – and to result in sub-optimal distribution of the colour pigments.

By adding Palsgaard’s patented, liquid emulsifier-based dispersing aid, colour masterbatch manufacturers can achieve a safer production process and much better distribution of colour pigments. In fact, the emulsifier is so efficient that pigment loadings can be significantly reduced while still delivering the desired colour strength, allowing considerable cost-savings as well as a more sustainable polymer profile.

As an added benefit, colour masterbatch producers will also be able to improve production processes, since the equipment becomes much easier to clean when switching to other colours.

Sustainable in more ways than one

“Our products are even produced in a sustainable manner,” Bjarne Nielsen elaborates. “All of our production sites are CO2-neutral, and we only use RSPO-certified segregated palm oil in our emulsifiers, a practice that also extends to our polymer additives.”

For plastics manufacturers and their polyolefin suppliers, working with a partner such as Palsgaard can open a door into a profitable future, introducing a wide variety of new products and product variations that find favour with today’s producers and consumers.

In addition, with its focus on absolute safety, the company will continue to provide products that are a perfect fit for the current green, sustainable and safe agenda in polymer functional agents.

“We have invested heavily in upgrades to our technology and lab facilities to meet customer needs and develop fruitful partnerships with them,” Bjarne Nielsen explains. “We strive to generate projects where we can be a valuable business partner for our customers, providing them with products of the highest possible efficiency, performance, safety and sustainability.”

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