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Investigation of the Nature and Extent of Biodegradable Polymers in Direct Food Contact Applications

Institutions
Central Science Laboratory
Start date
2002
End date
2004
Objective
The project aims were realised via a group of 6 linked objectives, which were:

Gather information on the chemical composition of biodegradable polymers intended for food contact. Gather information on the conditions of use including the type of foods packaged along with the contact conditions of time and temperature. Make estimates of the amount of biodegradable polymers used in the UK per annum. Evaluate the migration potential from biodegradables given their composition and conditions of use. Evaluate the suitability of standard migration test protocols, for example from the sectors of paper and plastics, for use to test biodegradables. Produce final report on the information gathering exercise along with recommendations for further work, including experimental work, if any is required.

More information
Nearly three million tonnes of plastic waste are produced in the UK each year, much of which is packaging. More than half of this is food packaging. Plastic waste is almost all non-degradable and over 80 percent of plastic waste products are put in landfills. The use of biodegradable polymers to make food packaging is beginning to be a practical reality. Commercial applications are in prospect, especially where the higher cost of biodegradable materials compared to synthetic polymers derived from petroleum can be off-set by a marketing advantage. 'Sustainable' and 'non-polluting' are attributes that are traded on. Also, there is increasing governmental pressure on manufacturers via eco-taxes to reduce the amount of non-degradable plastic packaging.

It would be quite easy to assume that if polymers are derived from natural sources and/or are biodegradable then they must automatically be safe. But this may not be the case. This project addressed the identification of possible migrants and any testing requirements for biodegradable polymers intended for food contact.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
A03040
Categories
Packaging Residues