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Plastics Industry Scrambles for BPA Substitutes
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As consumers reject this substance, industry leaders are developing a range of safer alternatives to use in food and personal care packaging and storage.

Despite disagreement about the health effects of bisphenol A (BPA), consumers are increasingly rejecting baby bottles, water containers, canned foods and other products that include the substance or are delivered in packaging that contains it. Familiar and new alternatives are appearing in the supply chain, some accompanied by controversies of their own.

Commonly available BPA-free plastics include high-density polyethylene, polypropylene and low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Polyethylene terephthalate is also on this list, although consumers have questioned the safety of terephthalates.

Existing Solutions

Tetra Paks, widely used in Europe, are made of 70 percent paperboard with thin layers of LDPE and aluminum foil. In the United States, they are gaining favor as packaging for juices, soups, liquid dairy products and even wine.

To line cans containing low-acid foods, baked-on oleoresin is an option. Although oleoresin-lined cans cost 14 percent more than industry-standard BPA-lined cans now, the price for them will likely come down with wider use and a larger market for the material. Eden Foods, a subsidiary of Hain Celestial, is already using oleoresin linings for its bean products, while Heinz and Hain Celestial corporate are actively researching alternatives that can be used in packaging highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes.

Eastman's Tritan BPA-free medical-grade resin was introduced only a year ago and has been chosen for a number of intravenous and blood-therapy applications. From Germany, Grilamid TR transparent polyamide (nylon) is a BPA-free family of amorphous thermoplastics that may suit food and drug applications.

On the Horizon

Novomer has just announced a breakthrough process that uses waste carbon dioxide to produce polymers and polyols for BPA-free food packaging and coatings. It uses a proprietary catalyst that enables the carbon dioxide to be inserted into an epoxide to form a polymer.

Finally, a new corn-derived isosorbide chemical is being offered by Archer Daniels Midland Co. as a possible alternative for application in polycarbonates for personal care and consumer products.


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