A water-based emulsion provides an effective, more sustainable alternative to fluorochemical-based food packaging solutions

A paper takeout box needs to do more than keep your pizza warm — it must also withstand folds, oil and grease to maintain its integrity.

Fluorochemicals are traditionally used to provide the grease-repelling properties required for many food packaging applications. As regulations and public scrutiny surrounding the use of these chemicals increase, manufacturers and consumers seek a more sustainable solution.

JONCRYL® HPB 1702 is a new water-based emulsion designed to provide the performance of traditional grease barriers without the use of fluorochemicals.

Why are we moving away from fluorochemicals?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, are a common class of chemicals used in food packaging, including food contact containers, paperboard containers and beverage containers. The carbon-fluorine bonds that make up these chemicals provide hydrophobic and lipophobic properties to produce the non-stick, grease-resistant and waterproof capabilities that consumer products require.

Due to their chemical structure, PFASs tend to persist in the environment, because the chemical bonds remain stable long after the container’s useful life has worn out. Some fluorochemicals have also been linked to certain cancers, liver and kidney damage, and other health effects.

The FDA currently allows for shorter-chain PFASs, which are less bioaccumulative, to be used in food packaging, but this is expected to change over growing concerns about sustainability and health effects. Environmental officials from a number of European countries have already announced a plan to restrict all PFAS chemicals by 2030, and more than a dozen US states have recently unveiled legislation that includes a ban on PFAS within the next few years.

“People are really starting to question the impact of fluorochemicals on the environment and their sustainability as grease barriers,” says Simon Foster, Industry Marketing Manager for Printing and Packaging at BASF. “Brand owners are seeking new solutions and new options, and JONCRYL HPB 1702 is one of those effective options as a major component of a grease barrier formulation.”

High-performance grease resistance

Paper food packaging must resist permeation from water, oil and grease from hot foods. It should also be flexible enough to withstand creases and movement without compromising the integrity of the package.

We feel confident that customers won’t have to compromise between sustainability and performance.”

Simon Foster

Industry Marketing Manager for Printing and Packaging

“The package itself is often folded or creased in order to work effectively, but those tend to create weak spots in coatings,” Foster explains. “JONCRYL HPB 1702 shows continued strong performance, even after the package has been creased or folded.”

Without a proper barrier, oils and liquids can soak into the package and cause the paper fibers to degrade, compromising the package’s structure and creating stains and blotches.

“There's a functional element to grease resistance — it essentially protects the package from its contents — but there's an aesthetic reason too,” says Foster. “If something on the package looks discolored, less vibrant or less ‘premium’ than the package beside it, consumers may make a different choice. It raises questions about the quality of the product and the quality of the company.”

Put to the test

With comparable performance to fluorochemicals, JONCRYL HPB 1702 provides excellent grease resistance at room temperature up to 60 degrees Celsius. (Image 1)

“When you compare JONCRYL HPB 1702 against fluorochemicals, it meets the same level of performance in basically every application,” says Foster. “The performance is certainly better than other water-based components on the market because of its temperature tolerance and ability to maintain performance after it's been folded or creased.”

Achieving the necessary properties in a water-based emulsion was a huge challenge, as the same carbon-fluorine bonds that give fluorochemicals their strengthening properties also contributes to their harmful effects.

“The challenge with sustainable solutions is that they don't always provide the same level of performance as the chemical of concern,” says Foster. “In this case, we feel confident that customers won’t have to compromise between sustainability and performance.”

The cost is also comparable to traditional coatings, and there are more options for manufacturers regarding where in the supply chain the emulsion is added.

“We’ve been able to review the economics of the application and find that it is on par with the cost-in-use for fluorochemicals,” says Foster.

The shift to sustainability

As the demand for more sustainable options grows, BASF continues to prioritize the development of sustainable solutions that don’t compromise performance.

“Today's consumers are much more focused on not only the product, but also the package it comes in and the environmental footprint of that package,” says Foster. “I think the coatings industry is really taking the lead to meet the shift in consumer preferences by working on innovations like JONCRYL HPB 1702. We are starting the process of shifting to more sustainable solutions.”

JONCRYL HPB 1702 is available now in North America. Contact BASF to request a sample or learn more about the JONCRYL line of resins and emulsions.

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