Milk-based ​Biodegradable ​and Water-​soluble ​Plastic

Milk-based ​Biodegradable ​and Water-​soluble ​Plastic

Milk-based edible food packaging could help reduce the pervasiveness of single-use plastic, a major cause of environmental pollution adversely affecting wildlife, habitats and human health. 

Through a project called Ecolactifilm, French company Lactips has developed a patented, milk-based thermoplastic packaging material that is biodegradable and water-soluble at low temperatures.

milk plastic.jpgThe packaging film is based on casein – a protein derived from milk – and breaks down harmlessly in water or home compost. It takes just three weeks to biodegrade, claims the company.

‘It is a truly disruptive innovation, and we can now make what was previously not possible,’ said Jean-Antoine Rochette, chief financial officer of Lactips and the company’s project officer for Ecolactifilm. Disruptive innovations are ones which have the potential to fundamentally change a market.

Forming a good oxygen barrier to help keep goods fresh, the material can readily be printed with labels or usage instructions. Proposed applications for Lactips’ packaging include water treatment, agrochemicals, dishwasher capsules and even edible food packaging. ‘The main thing of interest (to industry) is that our product is fully water-soluble and fully water-soluble at cold temperatures,’ Rochette said.

Lactips, which is based near Lyon, only uses milk that is unfit for human consumption for its non-food applications. The material is produced as small plastic pellets called nurdles that, with some adjustments, can be used in existing plastic processing machinery. But because it can be formed at lower temperatures than oil-based plastics, the process also saves energy.

‘We are bringing new opportunities to industry, because you use it for new applications, so it is innovative,’ said Rochette, ‘But you can manage the product with the same industrial processes, and do it at the same price.’

By using leftover protein from milk that is suitable for human consumption, however, another potential application for Lactips is edible-grade food packaging. This makes for strong prospects in packaging cheese, a substantial industry in France and other parts of Europe. It also makes for a certain symmetry, where both the product and its edible wrapper are made from milk. 

Source: Horizon