The ultimate attributes of green food packaging

Food packaging is the last step in the modern food industry. It plays an important role in packaging, protection, beautification, promotion and convenience of food storage, transportation and sales. To an extent, food packaging has become an integral part of food. . At present, the situation faced by the food packaging industry in China is not optimistic. Many food packaging materials on the market are difficult to meet the national requirements for food safety, hygiene and environmental protection. For example, the toxicity and residual content of solvents, heavy metal content, etc., are not only harmful to health, It also affects the healthy development of the food packaging industry in China and even the entire food industry. After joining the WTO, "technical trade barriers" have become the biggest challenge faced by many export enterprises in China. At present, China's plastic gravure ink, benzene solvent-based inks account for a large proportion, while developed countries such as Europe and the United States have clearly stipulated that the use of benzene solvents in food packaging and printing, so alcohol, water and other environmentally friendly benzene-free ink The application of plastic gravure will attract more and more attention from the industry, and it will lead the future of the ink printing market.

In early 2005, on the occasion of China’s three years of existence, “developing green flexible packaging” and “connecting with international standards”, these statements began to be mentioned more and more by domestic large and small flexible packaging companies. The call for environmental protection is in academic circles and flexible packaging. The industrial sector is growing. At the same time, the domestic soft packaging industry is practicing this mainstream vision, and a series of environmental protection policies, regulations, measures and products are gradually introduced, such as prevention of excessive packaging legislation, safety and environmental protection product certification, flexo, solvent-free compound, degradable Films, environmentally friendly aluminum foils, etc. These policies, products and technologies have been welcomed by consumers and the market. It seems as if overnight environmental protection has become the ultimate attribute of flexible packaging products.

First, what is the green packaging

The so-called green packaging should have five aspects: First, reduce packaging (Reduce); second, packaging should be easy to reuse (Reuse), or easy to recycle (Recycle); Third, packaging waste can be decomposed Degradable); Fourth, packaging materials should be non-toxic and harmless to humans and organisms. The packaging should not contain toxic elements, germs, and heavy metals; or these contents should be controlled below the relevant standards; Fifth, packaging products should be collected from raw materials, processed materials, manufactured products, processed products, recycled waste, and recycled until they are finally The entire life of the treatment should not cause harm to the human body and the environment. The raw materials currently used in green food packaging are mainly benzene-free inks, which are inks based on polyurethane as the main resin, and basically do not contain benzene solvents. In the case of using a small amount of benzene solvents, the residual amount of benzene solvents after drying the ink is also Very few. This feature is increasingly favored by the food packaging industry. Ink manufacturers also gradually develop products from benzenes and ketones to toluene-free, alcohol esters or water-based inks.

Second, the development trend of China's food flexible packaging ink

1. Technology R&D direction

China's plastic flexible packaging market, the vast majority of small and medium-sized enterprises, the production of technical products is not high or similar, so the competition is very fierce, and ultimately only focus on the cost reduction, while ignoring the product's technical requirements and health requirements. Although the use of domestic plastic inks has increased significantly, it has not been correspondingly improved in terms of safety and hygienic properties, and it has apparently lags behind. Toluene and other aromatic hydrocarbon solvents are still used in large quantities, and chlorinated and acrylic inks account for 60% of the total. More than the market.

Since China's accession to the WTO, China’s economy and trade have become more closely related to other countries. The “internationalization” requirement has greatly boosted the development of China's plastic ink industry toward environmental protection, but there are still quite a number of plastic flexible packaging companies and ink manufacturers that are passive. Accept the status, instead of consciously and actively preemptively taking the initiative. The domestic plastic packaging ink must be linked with safety and hygiene in the future product development. As for its solvent system, it should develop toward the direction of benzene-free and alcohol-soluble. In the aspect of alcohol-soluble ink technology, Zhejiang New Oriental, Shanghai Sikebai, DIC and other enterprises are in a leading position. As for its connection material technology, it should develop towards the polyester polyurethane system. Polyester polyurethane inks are highly favored by users due to their low toxicity, excellent printability for PET and NY materials, high temperature resistance, resistance to freezing, abrasion resistance, etc., and will gradually replace chlorinated polypropylene inks. . Polyester inks produced by Zhejiang New Oriental Ink Group Co., Ltd. currently account for more than 50% of the company's total ink production and become the company's core competitiveness products. Plastic packaging sleeve inks will develop toward heavy metal-containing pigments in terms of their pigment system. If the domestic pigment manufacturers cannot integrate with international manufacturers at this point, they will face the risk of being eliminated.

2. Process development

In supermarkets in Europe and the United States, we found an interesting phenomenon: its product packaging is very simple, regardless of color or texture and domestic differences of a grade. If we compare the flexible packaging separately with similar products in China, we believe that the QC (Quality Control) department in China will treat most of the Western countries as inferior goods. Why do developing countries catch up with the developed countries in the packaging industry? We use the US flexo printing as a human point of analysis: Flexo printing is a little inferior to gravure printing at the outlets, and the printing quality is low, but it is accounted for in terms of environmental protection. Take the opportunity. First, the U.S. government has enacted tough environmental laws and regulations; secondly, due to the cost reduction caused by flexo printing economies of scale, manufacturers are willing to accept; and with good social education, consumers tend to use environmentally-friendly products. Therefore, the use rate of flexo printing in the U.S. flexible packaging is as high as 90%. Countries, businesses, and consumers have become big winners in this environmental game. However, the acceptance of environmental technologies such as domestic flexo printing is not high in the market. Because flexo printing uses the principle of embossing, compared to the gravure of heavy oil, the relative ink color is less, thinner, and the degree of coloring is not very high, and the gravure is not as good as the gravure. Domestic soft packaging consumption has long been in a fixed position with high gravure coloration and high brightness, and it is not yet able to accept this new environmentally friendly printing technology. Moreover, the development of flexo printing technology is also limited by the market itself. The need for environment-friendly inks depends on imports for a long period of time, which leads to high costs and is one of the reasons why flexo printing is not widely promoted.

In China's food plastic flexible packaging, gravure has absolute advantages, has been in a steady state of development, and has good prospects for development, in large supermarkets, the leading food, daily necessities packaging are gravure products. In view of the above analysis and the development of domestic gravure printing, we have reason to believe that gravure will continue to maintain its absolute leading position in the printing of plastic flexible packaging. Ink and green ink

Water-based ink refers to a volatile ink that uses water and some alcohols as a solvent. The ink dries with the evaporation of water. The printing process has no pollution to the environment. The ink is harmless to the human body, and it is not easy to burn. The safety is good. Solvent-based inks also use a volatile dry method, but there is a large amount of volatile organics released. From the current situation in China, ink is mainly used in corrugated paper, paper gravure printing and some flexographic printing. It is rarely used in the gravure of a material film. The use of water-based inks in plastic film printing is an intrinsic requirement for gravure printing itself. On the one hand, in the printing of plastic flexible packaging, the advantages of gravure printing are very significant: the printing pattern is bright and the performance is strong; the printing capacity is very good and can reach more than 1 million printing times; and the seamless image printing is realized. On the other hand, the adverse effects brought about by gravure printing are also obvious. Due to the non-absorption characteristics of the plastic film, a large amount of organic solvents is used in the ink itself and the actual printing process, which damages the environment and hurts the health of the human body. At present, BOPP film printing is the most used in gravure printing, and most of the inks used are chlorinated polypropylene type inks in printing. A large amount of toluene is used as a solvent. Chlorine monomer is used in the resin production process to bring people's health. Security risks. If the gravure printing industry wants to avoid weaknesses and achieve sustainable development, it must eliminate the negative environmental impact brought by gravure printing and the potential safety and health hazards.

Zhejiang New Oriental Ink Group Co., Ltd. has accumulated many years of experience in the production of plastic gravure inks, combined with the development characteristics of foreign water-based inks, the first to introduce a new type of water-based ink: Howard 400 - water-based gravure plastic composite ink, suitable for BOPP film printing, With excellent printing adaptability and good composite strength, the printed product has no odor and is the best choice for non-toxic and environment-friendly food flexible packaging. According to the current situation of the development of China's flexible packaging market, our company will first promote 400 water-based white inks to the market, and use them together with chlorinated polyolefins. Our company hopes to use this technology to promote the gravure industry's supply chain including color printing manufacturers. The approval of water-based plastic inks by equipment manufacturers, end-users, etc. will jointly promote the development of the gravure printing industry in China toward environmental protection.

(author/Li Suzhen)

China Packaging News / Flexible Packaging Weekly

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