Coatings research specialist PRA, part of the Pera Technology group, is co-ordinating the PlantPack project under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which funds research and technological development. The project began in November 2012 and will finish this October.
According to PRA project manager Michael Morris, the primary objective is to produce a viable grease-resistant spray coating based on cornstarch and seaweed extract. The partners have also been working on water-resistant and combined water and grease-resistant coatings, but these are likely to take longer to develop.
A key aim was to find alternatives to fossil fuel-derived coatings.
“We’re extremely happy with the grease barrier,” said Morris. “It’s now undergoing final testing at Spanish partner institute Itene in areas such as compostability and recyclability.”
Itene is due to report on the material’s recyclability, compostability/biodegradability and overall compliance with EU standards, including food contact safety, before the end of the project. Having carried out the relevant searches, PRA believes the formulation is patentable.
Other partners include international food coatings supplier Mantrose, UK paper and board converter Alexir and Polish paper and film converter Yanko.
“Inline trials with Yanko went brilliantly,” said Morris. “We coated several hundred metres of Kraft paper, without altering any of the line settings for coating or curing.”
PRA is now talking to potential partners (including commercial partners) and writing a proposal for research under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 funding, which will replace the FP7. This could provide a further two years of research and development taking the project to the point of commercialisation, said Morris.