PFAS-free packaging is a cause for Celebration

FOODSERVICE packaging specialist Celebration Packaging has warned that man-made ‘forever chemicals’ called PFAS (per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are likely to become a growing issue for the industry in the coming years.

The synthetic, fluorine-based chemicals are used in a variety of common applications, including fast food packaging.

While they are safe for food contact, the chemicals can eventually contaminate groundwater following their release into the environment and research is ongoing to assess the risk to humans from a build-up of PFAS in the body.

In October, an article on the BBC website reported that experts have warned stricter limits are needed on levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in UK drinking water, adding that in high doses, PFAS have been linked to health concerns including cancer. Denmark was the first European country to ban PFAS from food packaging, joining 12 US states in making such a move.

Nick Burton, MD of Celebration Packaging, told Packaging Scotland that he first became aware of the issue a few years ago. The company has now switched its white bagasse takeaway clamshells, dinnerware, and chip trays to PFAS-free alternatives and secured the necessary accreditations to back this up.

Nick explained that PFAS were created over 50 years ago to make things waterproof and water-resistant, and have since been heavily used in protecting clothes and carpets from stains, and for firefighting foams.

Their water-resistant properties have made them useful for food packaging.

Nick Burton said, “We became aware of the PFAS issue a few years ago, because we sell a lot of bagasse products, and began to look for viable non-PFAS packaging in early 2022.

“We import our white bagasse products from China and our supplier started experimenting with different chemicals. It took quite a long time to find something that was PFAS-free but also delivered the same functionality for water and grease-resistance. We started buying PFA-free bagasse products about a year ago.”

Nick Burton

To ensure that all white bagasse fibre clamshells, chip trays and dinnerware supplied by Celebration are PFAS-free, the business arranged for SGS, an international testing, inspection, and certification company, to test them. The products are also TUV home compostable certified.

Nick anticipates that we will hear a lot more about PFAS in the next few years, and he is on a mission to raise awareness of the issue.

Celebration Packaging was founded in 1983 and today provides a range of sustainable food and drink packaging solutions including hot and cold drinking cups, containers, pots, trays, cutlery, paper straws, wooden stirrers, and napkins.

The company was ahead of the game when it comes to environmentally friendly options, and in 2007 launched its EnviroWare range of takeaway options made from natural raw materials.

“We could see that was the way the market was going and (sustainable packaging) was very niche at the time,” Nick added. “Over the last 15 years it’s become more mainstream, especially over the last five years.

“We’ve just launched a range of bamboo fibre paper drinking cups which we believe are our most sustainable paper hot drink cups. We’re offering paper cutlery now, which five years ago would have been laughed at and dismissed. Because of the plastic cutlery ban, we’re seeing a lot of customers switching from plastic to paper.”