Rigid Packaging Thermoforming with Transparent Paper? Clarifoil ® (Spondon, Derby, UK) is the world’s leading manufacturer of cellulose diacetate films and has been producing film in the UK since the 1940’s. In fact, acetate film was one of the successful thermoplastics and during the 1950’ and 1960’s it was the material of choice for thermoforming. However, when new oil-based plastics became available, acetate film lost favor to these cheaper alternatives. In recent years, brands have been trying hard to reduce packaging, remove weight from packaging and improve packaging design. There is growing trend to look for sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics and this is why over the past year Clarifoil has re-developed a new range of film which is suitable for thermoforming. Unlike many other plant based bioplastics, Clarifoil is not based on starch derivatives. Instead the main raw ingredient is cellulose derived from wood pulp which is sourced from trees that come from managed forestry. This means that no endangered hardwoods are used and more trees are planted than harvested. At the end of its life, depending where it ends up there are a range of options, from recycling film at its plant in the UK, to capturing the energy after incineration. As for composting, it is well known that cellulose diacetate is biodegradable and for the thin Clarifoil films which are used for lamination, labels and window patching Clarifoil has certification for both industrial and home composting. For thicker films, this is a greater challenge because although the film will completely biodegrade, it takes longer than the tests allow simply because the film is thicker. To evaluate the composting timescales for thicker film, tests are currently being conducted which simulate home composting conditions and results are expected later this year. The project started last year by making prototypes on a bench top thermoforming machine. Since then, successful trials on full-scale production machines have been run in both Europe and in Asia. The film itself has similar mechanical properties to traditional oil-based plastics and can be used on machines that are set up to use PET or PVC. It has good thermal properties too, with a high softening temperature which means storage, handling and transport of both the film and thermoformed shapes requires no special equipment. The first prototypes were shown at a well-known suppliers show last year in the USA. Visitors to the stand were impressed by the superior clarity compared to other thermoform plastics and were surprised that the main raw material in the film came from trees. It was referred to as transparent paper. This is an exciting development for Clarifoil. The film has all the benefits of behaving like traditional plastic whilst giving the peace of mind that the environmental impact is minimized - a responsible solution. www.clarifoil.com 14 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/13] Vol. 8
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