Consumers are not just becoming increasingly interested in food ingredients and how they’re produced, but also in the safety of the plastic packaging foods come in. Here’s how applying the capabilities of plant-based emulsifiers to packaging materials presents an easy, affordable way to lift safety and ease production.
"Commonly used food emulsifiers such as polyglycerol esters (E475) and mono- and diglycerides (E471), known as glycerol monostearate (GMS) in the polymer industry, are not only safer and more sustainable, but also offer several additional benefits such as improved performance, faster production runs and a superior cost-in-use compared with conventional additives."
– Bjarne Nielsen, Business Development Manager
Invented in 1917 by Palsgaard founder, Einar Viggo Schou, the modern emulsifier was originally intended to reduce spattering in margarine. Since then, the use of emulsifiers has become much more widespread, with applications ranging from prevention of heat shock in ice cream to viscosity control in chocolate, and aeration in baked goods – and most recently, as a functional polymer additive.
Ask a polymer producer or masterbatcher which emulsifiers he is using, however, he’ll most likely not know what you are talking about.
“Essentially, emulsifiers allow oil and water to mix and form a stable emulsion, which is very useful in food production”, explains Bjarne Nielsen, Business Development Manager for Bio-Speciality Additives at Palsgaard. “When used in polymers, however, emulsifiers have different functionalities, making them suitable as anti-fogging and anti-static additives as well as dispersing aids”, he continues.
Traditionally, petrochemical-based additives have been used to deliver these functionalities but, as consumers become increasingly concerned about possible migration from the plastic packaging into food products, plastic manufacturers have started to explore safer and more sustainable solutions.
“Commonly used food emulsifiers such as polyglycerol esters (E475) and mono- and diglycerides (E471), known as glycerol monostearate (GMS) in the polymer industry, are not only safer and more sustainable, but also offer several additional benefits such as improved performance, faster production runs and a superior cost-in-use compared with conventional additives,” says Bjarne Nielsen.
Supported by 100 years of experience in developing and perfecting emulsifiers used in food, Palsgaard’s R&D staff have unique insight into the molecular behaviour of the many different substances that make up emulsifiers. This has enabled the development of innovative, efficient, safe and sustainable possibilities for the polymer industry – and Palsgaard’s series of dispersing aids is a good example:
Traditionally, powdered, petrochemical-based waxes have been used to coat the colour pigments and help distribute them in the polymer product. Mixing the waxes with the expensive colour pigments, however, is a dusty affair. This is likely to be a concern for workplace safety – and to result in sub-optimal distribution of the colour pigments.
By adding Palsgaard’s patented, liquid emulsifier-based dispersing aid, colour masterbatch manufacturers can achieve a safer production process and much better distribution of colour pigments. In fact, the emulsifier is so efficient that pigment loadings can be significantly reduced while still delivering the desired colour strength, allowing considerable cost-savings as well as a more sustainable polymer profile.
As an added benefit, colour masterbatch producers will also be able to improve production processes, since the equipment becomes much easier to clean when switching to other colours.
“Our products are even produced in a sustainable manner,” Bjarne Nielsen elaborates. “All of our production sites are CO2-neutral, and we only use RSPO-certified segregated palm oil in our emulsifiers, a practice that also extends to our polymer additives.”
For plastics manufacturers and their polyolefin suppliers, working with a partner such as Palsgaard can open a door to a profitable future, introducing a wide variety of new products and product variations that find favour with today’s producers and consumers.
In addition, with its focus on absolute safety, the company will continue to provide products that are a perfect fit for the current green, sustainable and safe agenda in polymer functional agents.
“We have invested heavily in upgrades to our technology and lab facilities to meet customer needs and develop fruitful partnerships with them,” Bjarne Nielsen explains. “We strive to generate projects where we can be a valuable business partner for our customers, providing them with products of the highest possible efficiency, performance, safety and sustainability.”