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Innovative method for food contact packaging: PLA production

The European Project InnoREX enables the production of monolayer bioplastic packaging thanks to the great value chain that forms the project’s Consortium, in collaboration with the Valencian enterprise TALLERES POHUER.

For the first time, the manufacturing process will be carried out in an extruder, so that production will take place on a continuous basis, without the use of metallic catalysts and by incorporating alternative energies.

The Plastics Technology Centre AIMPLAS, along with eleven other enterprises and technological European centers, has launched the InnoREX project, financed by the Seventh Framework Program funds and coordinated by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology – ICT. Also during the 42 project months two multinationals in the sector are involved as observers such as the French multinational ROQUETTE and the Finnish multinational HUHTAMAKI.

This ambitious project seeks to develop a new technology of PLA production (polylactic acid) that will, among other benefits, improve the homogeneity of production and exclude the use of metallic catalysts that were necessary until now. Furthermore, it is expected to obtain energy savings and a single monolayer packaging that may be processed by both polymer processing, the extrusion and injection technology.

The use of an extruder as a reactor to produce polymer or bioplastics made from polylactic acid is the main innovation of the InnoREX project. In this way and thanks to the incorporation of a viscometer, the viscosity of the material can be measured and can be modified or corrected during the production process. Another innovation is the use of an organic catalyst to accelerate the reaction in order to obtain bioplastics, as a substitution for metallic particles that were until now necessary to incorporate into the process. Thus, thanks to the elimination of metallic particles in the process, its security is enhanced for the safety of people and of the environment.

Energy saving and life cycle

Apart from the reactive extruder technology, the use of alternative energies as opposed to conventional energies is also added as is the case of the laser, microwave and ultrasounds. These are energies of rapid response that already offer a huge saving in energy. In addition the process proposed by InnoREX provides energy savings combining in one same process the development of a polymer and its compounding, for the further shaping of the final product. Parallel to all this, the project includes a detailed analysis of the packaging life cycle. The prototype obtained as a result will be a single thin walled monolayer packaging (of a thickness possibly not exceeding a millimeter) intended for the food sector, processing through injection or extrusion for obtaining a thermoconforming and film packaging for when there are demands of lower thickness .

Additional information on the project can be found at: