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Issued:01/12/14

A revolutionary food packaging material developed through a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University and Karlstad University in Sweden is soon to be introduced to the market.

CaiLar uses a natural combination of starch and clay to create a moisture-resistant film coating for paper and cardboard. This approach could reduce the food packaging sector's reliance on petroleum-based plastics.

UK households currently generate more than 1.7 million tonnes of packaging waste each year but only 50 per cent of the plastic bottles used and 12-15 per cent of the mixed plastic waste is recycled.

This, added to the fact that petroleum is a time-limited resource, meant that a more sustainable and biodegradable alternative needed to be developed.

The CaiLar innovation resulted from a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam and Karlstad University in Sweden under the European funded project SustainPack, which aimed to encourage the use of recyclable packaging materials.

The technology on which CaiLar is based is protected by a series of worldwide patents. Large scale pilot trials have proved that the coating technology, which is safe for food contact, is suitably robust. This means that CaiLar is now ready to be introduced onto the food packaging market and a new company, BarrCoat AB, has been set up in Karlstad to achieve this.

Professor Chris Breen, head of Sheffield Hallam's Polymers, Nanocomposites and Modelling Research Centre, has worked with Karlstad's associate professor Caisa Andersson and Professor Lars Järnström on the project.

He said: "The clay particles in CaiLar really slow down the progress of moisture through the package. This keeps the packed food drier and also helps maintain the starch’s natural ability to slow down oxygen penetration into the packaged food.

"The pilot trials have shown that we can recreate the properties we found in the lab on a much larger scale. Our colleagues at BarrCoat AB are already engaging with a number of interested companies who want to benefit from CaiLar’s green credentials, so we're really excited that CaiLar could soon be out on the market."

Louise Törnefalk Svanqvist, chairman of BarrCoat AB said: "Environment, sustainability and innovation are three strong driving forces within the packaging industry and the new barrier coating CaiLar gives products and companies the possibility to become more environmentally friendly without compromising on function."

For press information: contact Nicole Kelly in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email n.kelly@shu.ac.uk