Environmental Friendly Color Masterbatches for Sustainable Coloring of Bio-Degradable Plastic.
Our everyday life utilizes a lot of plastic in disparate applications. Traditionally it was synthetic plastic, which found a huge platform; but with the advent of new technologies, bio based plastic has got the attention. With plethora of new applications coming up, bio plastics have made their foundations strong. Some of the most common applications of bio plastics are bin liners and carrier disposable bags. However they find a major application in the food packaging sector wherein colored bio plastics are used for the production of disposable cutlery and colored meat trays. Nonetheless, all these applications can utilize bio plastics only when they are assured safe. For this only purpose, bio plastics in the food packaging industry have to meet the food industry specifications like that of US Food and Drug Administration –FDA or the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
However, the coloring of bio plastics has become a matter of concern. Since the carrier is bio based, even the color masterbatches need to be bio based. Today almost all the plastic generated has a color masterbatch to color it accordingly. When the traditional, non-petroleum-based, biodegradable carriers are used, micro particles are released into the environment after complete degradation of the colored biopolymer. Although the amount of these micro particles is some 100 times less than that of the micro particles, this problem must be included in any strict ecological analysis and assessment in view of the large quantities of packaging waste generated.
Biodegradability is an import aspect which consumer expects wherein, a biodegradable packaging material is anticipated to break down completely, including the color components. Consequently, the polymer carrier, hence, must be just as biodegradable as the material being colored. But if this requirement is met, even then, the colorant particles continue to be present as micro particles. This is because, the bunch of colorants commercially available in the market, do not have compostable properties. Amidst the dearth of companies which provide bio based color masterbatches, AF-Color, a subsidiary of Akro-Plastic GmbH, Germany, has emerged as a savior to the class of people who believe in bio-based products. The company uses only biodegradable and bio based PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) as the carrier for its bio based color masterbatches.
A still largely unresolved problem the biodegradability of the pigments used to color these bio plastics. As the organic pigments are not biodegradable, the focus is on ensuring that these pigments are free from heavy metals. Production of natural colorants is of virtually no commercial importance today because of the high cost and increasing animal protection acts. Some natural or nature-identical colorants can now be produced in part synthetically but they lack the properties required for modern plastics coloration in terms of light and heat stability. Hence the main concern for the future would be the development of color masterbatches that will fit the need of Biobased plastics.
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