What does plastic free actually mean?
Every day we receive new packaging solutions that are described by the manufacturers as sustainable and plastic-free in our inbox. Manufacturers who approach us with products or a certain coating in a product. The Flustix certificate is often being used as proof that the coffee cup or food packaging is plastic-free. But what does plastic free exactly mean?
0% or 100% plastic free
In our opinion, this simply means that there are no plastic / polymer, bio plastic, oxy plastic, micro plastics or nano plastics present in any form whatsoever. If a packaging does contain plastic/polymer or micro plastics, even if it is only 0.1%, then it does contain plastic. Flustix is being seen as a leading certificate by a few parties in the market and is even recommended to the Dutch government, but not an official certificate that proves something to be plastic free.
If we deep dive into Flustix’s testing process, we see that testing is only done for particles from a certain size (6mµ). Anything smaller (including micro and nano plastics up to 1/1000 mµ ) is therefore not included in the test. The Flustix certificate does not mean that the packaging is plastic-free. Isn’t Flustix a good step forward? Yes of course, but products with the Flustix certificate are not plastic-free.
The inserted photo shows an example of what a plastic coating on cardboard looks like through a Spectrometer. The crystals that are clearly visible in a kind of ‘liquid layer’ represent the layer on the cardboard. This layer is the barrier layer that gives the cardboard its grease and moisture resistant properties and is difficult to remove during a recycling process.
At the moment there is no available coating that is completely plastic free. A coating with the necessary properties to make packaging grease and water resistant without plastic/polymers. We are currently working with two different parties to develop a coating that is truly plastic-free. This is a process of lots of testing and taking one step forward and two steps back. An enormous challenge, in which we involve the entire chain, including production partners, our customers and waste processors. Will these coatings be the most sustainable solution for food packaging and coffee cups? More about this in our next blog.