In March 2021, a research team led by Gregory Glenn from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a review article in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety on alternatives for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in paper food packaging. In their article, the authors describe the availability, suitability, and limitations of currently discussed alternatives for PFAS. A very common strategy identified includes adding waxes or lamination of paper with polymer films such as polyethylene (PE; CAS 9002-88-4), poly(ethylene‐co‐vinyl alcohol) (CAS 25067-34-9), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET; CAS 25038-59-9).
However, these laminates and waxes are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. Laminates with biodegradable polymers are discussed as well, such as poly-lactic acid (PLA; CAS 26100-51-6), polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT; CAS 60961-73-1), polybutylene succinate (PBS; CAS 25777-14-4), and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). In addition to laminates, surface sizing and coatings with materials such as starch (CAS 9005-25-8), plant protein, and chitosan (CAS 9012-76-4) represent other processing techniques that can provide “adequate oil barrier properties but have poor moisture resistance without chemical modification.”
The authors emphasize the difficulties in finding a suitable replacement for PFAS chemicals, which will require more research efforts: “Numerous nontoxic chemicals with various processing methods have been proposed to replace PFAS [..] but a cost-effective, fully biodegradable, and environmentally friendly replacement which can be easily processed to attain the effectiveness of PFAS has remained elusive so far.”
Food Packaging Forum, 15 March 2021