In 2017 we announced the start of PEFPACK project, concerning packaging development made from polyethylene furanoate, PEF, a biosourced polymer presented as an alternative or improvement to PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Today, does this long-awaited material really deliver the announced performances? The consortium coordinated by the company TORAY FILMS EUROPE in relation with the company AVA Biochem, has synthesized PEF and shaped this material using different plastics processes, … and the results are promising.
Ease of transformation in the molten state, barrier properties at the rendezvous for a material that can be transformed in standard processes; PEF is indeed a future partner of PET, but still needs to be tamed. One of the key aspects is also to achieve the best compromise in terms of molecular weight (or high intrinsic viscosity) without undergoing colouring and using a catalyst system suitable for food packaging. We have already been able to identify specific polymerization conditions to obtain a PEF polymer suitable for the film-forming process compared to the PET polymer synthesized by TORAY. In reality, the material that will arrive on the market will not necessarily be PEF homopolymer but probably a copolymer. The PEFPACK project mobilizes chemists from IMP (UMR CNRS 5223- INSA of LYON), ICBMS and TORAY to optimize the synthesis and composition of the polymer in order to control the reaction kinetics, coloring and thermo-mechanical behavior of the material.
The next challenge is to anticipate the integration of PEF in recycling channels… it is this aspect that the CTCPA will now tackle in collaboration with PAPREC and TORAY. Here again PEF has great chances to demonstrate good performances because the barrier properties of PEF should give it an unprecedented resistance to chemical contamination. PEF may also be the ideal candidate for our future reusable packaging? An option that could be taken by HERPLAST / HEBERT P., a manufacturer of injection packaging, also a partner in the project. The next step is now to begin the introduction of PEF on the packaging market. For reasons of cost as well as non-disruption of the recycling channel, PEF will initially be introduced in small quantities in high-barrier complexes. By 2022, pilot productions will be available for the development of finished products.
With financial support of : Bpi France, La région Auvergne Rhône Alpes (fonds propres & Feder), La région Bourgogne Franche Comté