PVC was one of the first polymers used in food packaging applications that replaced many traditional materials such as glass as well as various forms of card and paper. Some of the key reasons for its success compared to traditional materials are highlighted below:
PVC is lightweight compared with glass, with the added benefit of reduced transport emissions
It is shatter resistant which was seen as an immense benefit as it would reduce the number of accidents in the home and outside.
PVC has excellent organoleptic properties which means that it imparts no taint or taste to foodstuffs
PVC has excellent barrier properties for the preservation of food
Innovative designs and product shapes can be achieved and all with excellent clarity and transparency
Compared to other thermoplastics PVC offers some unique properties and these include:
A wider range of additives can be used in PVC compared to any other polymer (this is due to its polar nature). So PVC in packaging can have a diverse range of applications from rigid thermoformed sheet – used in sandwich cartons, through to soft cling film – used in the preservation of food
It can be formed into products requiring complex shapes such as those with blown handles
PVC is very easy to print on.
Excellent cost/performance ratio
PVC is fully approved for use in food contact applications throughout the world. Many of the additives currently used in PVC are already on European incomplete additives lists such as those set out in EC Directive 2002/72 and later amendments.
There are various options for PVC packaging at end-of-life. Like any other thermoplastic, PVC can be mechanically recycled and recycling programmes have been established throughout Europe for both bottles and trays. Other options are possible.
In summary, PVC packaging plays an important role in the protection of a variety of foodstuffs, from specialised tamper-proof packaging to commodity food display trays.
Ceasing the use of PVC in packaging would reduce the freedom of choice to the consumer with no added benefit to the environment.