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Are Aseptic Containers Recyclable ?
Once the packaging has been done and the product consumed, Are Aseptic Containers Recyclable once again?
Yes, aseptic containers manufactured from layered paper, aluminum foil, and plastic can be recycled in most big cities.
Recycling of the aseptic containers depends on the towns or location’s recycling policies.
This is because the recycling industries must have the appropriate technology able to distinguish paper layers from the plastic and foil, which is not available in a lot of companies
Anyway, the carton council has made it a little easier to know whether your location has the recycling ability by checking with your zip code.
Other towns that don’t have the recycling option may have drop-off points if curbside doesn’t exist.
Packaging forms a crucial dimension of the financial industry, and for this, various methods have been developed to make the packaging of products more efficient.
Therefore, aseptic containers have come up as a common means of packing products.
Thus, a very massive number of aseptic containers all over, especially with the rapid increase in population, causes higher demand for products.
What Are Aseptic Containers?
These are cartons used for packaging various kinds of products for easier and better handling.
They are mostly made of plastic, aluminum foil, and layered paper. They are as well commonly known as Tetra packs.
For a better understanding, we need to be familiar with aseptic processing.
This is a technique adopted by commercial companies to aid in the storage of food and pharmaceuticals.
This involves handling sterilized containers and sterilized products in environments with certain approved conditions.
In this process, the thermally sterilized liquid is put into containers that had been earlier sterilized.
This process is done under sterile conditions so that the final product is a shelf-stable one.
Once this is done, the products do not have to be kept inside refrigerators to keep them from going bad as the sterilization process does all the main work of maintaining the sterility of the product inside.
Before the era of aseptic processing, products were sterilized inside the container, mostly liquid foods. Over time the aseptic process has replaced the in-container sterilization.
Now, foods such as milk, fruit juices, liquid eggs, yogurt, and many other foods are stored in aseptic containers.
This process entails three main steps:
Thermal sterilization utilizes the heat lability of an organism to inhibit or block its growth or further spread.
At certain temperature levels, the chances of survival for a micro-organism depend entirely on the level of heat produced and the amount of time the micro-organism is exposed to the high temperatures.
The most used form of thermal sterilization is steam addition. this is because of the high levels of effectiveness steam offers as it cheap and easy way of transmitting or distributing heat
Advantages of thermal sterilization
Very efficient in the destruction of unwanted micro-organisms
Most popular in the controlling growth of micro-organisms
This method can as well the process destroy thermally unstable elements.
It is not entirely utterly effective
Sterilizing the packaged product
This is achieved by combining hydrogen peroxide and heat from steam. The packaged products then pass through hot hydrogen peroxide.
This makes the product soft to allow forming. Afterward, cups are made, filled with the specific products, and sealed tightly with a lead.
The lead as well has to pass through the hot hydrogen peroxide.
Conservation of sterility
This is done during packaging to maintain the sterility levels of the products.
History of aseptic packaging
It all started with Olin Ball’s heat-cool-fill machine created in 1927.
The Heat-cool-fill did so good in raising the sensory quality of the processed products when compared to products stored in sealed cans.
Aseptic packaging gained more popularity due to the cheap cost, lower maintenance issues, and flexibility to handle various shapes and sizes.
In 1940, George Grindrod came up with the avoset process. in this process, products were packaged under ultraviolet lamps.
They sterilized air inside pressured conditions in a bid to keep contaminants away from the room in question.
Sterilization was done by directly injecting steam at temperatures of between 260 and 280 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled.
The end product of this process is what was known as an “excellent cream product.”
In the late 1940s, McKinley came up with the Dole Aseptic process. this method was effective in the handling of soups, special sauces, dairy products, and fruits
The Dole Aseptic process proved to be very effective over the direct steam injection.
During this same time, Roy Graves started sterilizing milk.
It involved a simple process under which ilk from a cow’s udder would pass through a pipe into a vacuum tank heated at 285 degrees Fahrenheit and then later allowed to cool to room temperature.
The end product received so much accolade from consumers despite being in metal containers.
In 1959, the use of paper foil laminated plastic containers started arising. These containers were called Tetrahedron.
Tetra Pak is the Swedish company responsible for the introduction of these containers into the US market.
Pasteurized milk and beverages were packaged into these containers and were well received by the vast market.
The company soon began using chlorine to sterilize the containers before packaging was done and then seal the container without any unwanted micro-organisms into the products inside.
However, because accessing f products from such containers was a big challenge for several people in the market, the containers were not widely accepted.
Thus, later in 1981, hydrogen peroxide was universally approved for sterilization of products in containers.
Till today, ships meant to transport food products across the continent have aseptic tanks to carry around fruit juices.
Packaging of aseptically processed products
The packaging containers used during this process must be sterilized separately before later being used.
The machine used for the packaging process is as ell sterilized using steam. Sterile gas or even hydrogen peroxide can be used instead of steam, but steam is preferred.
This process is controlled by culturing a test organism where a microorganism sample is used to know which thermal mark does all the bacteria die.
During the packaging, the environment must be sterilized, and high-temperature sealing plates are used to seal the containers.
Once this process is completed, the products can stay in the right conditions for a very long time, even without being stored in a refrigerator.
This heating process is used mainly in vegetable tissues before subjected to freezing, drying, or storage in cans.
Before canning is done, blanching serves a great purpose, which includes:
. Ensuring cleanliness of the products
. Lowering the levels of microbial presence
. Clearing away any gases that might be trapped within the container
. Wilting leaves of leafy vegetables to enable easy storage in containers
. De activates enzymes responsible for the deterioration of products.
Blanching is effective only at temperatures around 100 degrees Celsius for a minimum of two minutes and a maximum of five minutes.
This can be done either in a steam chamber or a water bath.
The only problem is during the process, and the product won’t be effective unless it is uniformly exposed to the steam; hence a lot of caution is required during this stage.
Controlling water activity
Food rich in water concentration is considered more prone to micro-bacterial contamination. This calls for controlling measures of the water content levels in any product.
This is always achieved by removing out excess water through dehydration.
It can also be done by adding solutes into the food product.
Once this is done, food concentration in the product will significantly increase while water will go down.
This has been common, especially in the production of starch products and spaghetti.
Since it proved to be far more effective, other food industries have adopted this technique, including vegetables, fruits, milk, potatoes, meat, and soup mixes.
During dehydration, some pathogens might survive the harsh conditions that the product is subjected to and thus later on causing food poisoning when the food is being rehydrated again for consumption.
Controlling such bacteria, therefore, in dry food products requires a high quality of raw-material exhibiting low contamination qualities, withstand the sanitization and pasteurizing process before drying is done, and finally, storage.
Foodstuff may be dried using various techniques.
. Superheated steam
. Inert gas
. Direct heat application
The most common method used for drying is air because of its varied advantages, which include:
. Exists in plenty
. Dependable or reliable
. Allows for slow drying of the food
. Cases of overheating are scarce.
Equipment and systems used in aseptic packaging
The main requirement here is that both before and during packaging, the containers must be sterilized all through the packaging process.
Below are the six primary considerations in designing a piece of aseptic processing equipment:
- Capability of cleaning
Since the main aim is to eliminate any form of bacteria in the food being packed in the containers, whatever equipment is being used must be washed and cleaned thoroughly before any use.
This is crucial because any traits left after the completion of a process may render the next process useless if not cleaned properly
- Ability to be sterilized
Since sterilization is done using different methods, the specific equipment being chosen should withstand sterilization using steam, chemicals, and high-temperature waters.
The material as well should not react with any of these sterilization methods.
- Media used for sterilization should access all parts of the equipment.
The most critical step in the whole process is ensuring no bacteria goes to the next level.
During sterilization, therefore, whatever media is used to sterilize the equipment should have full access to every part of the equipment so that no chance is left for the survival of any unwanted micro-organisms
- Ability to stay in a sterile state
Since the equipment will be exposed t long durations of sterilization, it has to be of such quality as to allow that to happen without losing form
- Ability to be used over and over again
The equipment should be able to withstand wash and reuse a lot because it cannot be replaced after each use
- Compliance with all regulations and standards
This may include the components of the material, size, and any other government bodies’ compliance issues.
Categories of aseptic packaging
Fill and seal
The specific containers are filled and then sealed tightly all in a sterile environment to eliminate any chance of being contaminated
Erect, fill, and seal
Once the plastic container is erected, it is properly sterilized, filled, and later sealed
Form, fill and seal
Here a role of sterilized film is molded into a shape of desire then filled and afterward sealed
Thermoform, fill and seal
Here, a roll of heated film together with a thermoform is filled and sealed in a sterile environment
Blow, mold, fill and seal
An extrudable material is needed to first blow-mold the container into a sterile package, then filled and later sealed
Bulk packaging and storage
This packaging type is used for heavy products, using either heat or disinfectants to sterilize the equipment before being filled and sealed.
The packaging material
The material used for packaging has to be able to withstand the sterile conditions of the packaged product.
Besides, it has to fully shield the packaged product from any form of physical damage.
Lastly, the packaging material must maintain the quality of the packaged material for a long time without any distortion.
For all these three significant aims to be achieved, the following components are deemed fit to be the core in manufacturing the packaging material:
Paper (70%) – essential in giving the material its stiff shape and adding more strength to the packaging material
Low-density polyethylene – this is the innermost material used in the packaging. It is essential for holding the liquid inside an airtight without any spillage.
The recommended ratio is 24%. It is also the most common plastic used in most aseptic packaging.
Aluminum – this is found on the inside of the package. Its main purpose is to block light and oxygen from getting access through to the products inside.
This is to make the product have no much need for refrigeration once it’s on the market. This as well prevents any spoilage that may arise from the use of preservatives in the product.
Its recommended ratio is 6%
Why are most packaging materials made from plastics and not metal?
The relative cost of producing plastic is way much cheaper as compared to that of making metal.
This is essential because aseptic packaging is so popular with rising demand; hence the most cost-effective material being plastic overweighs metal
Plastics are much lighter
Transportation of the products after manufacture is yet another issue to be dealt with, and thus eliminating the trouble of dragging heavy luggage across continents, plastics come in handy.
Furthermore, plastics being light, they are also cheaper to transport to various locations.
Plastics need less energy to produce
In comparison to metal and glass, the production of plastics is much faster and easier.
Selection of aseptic containers
The following are the factors that influence which type of aseptic container to be used for the packaging of a product;
Functional properties of the plastic polymer
What is the material going to serve? this is an important consideration for it helps in knowing its gas and vapor handling capabilities as well as its odor absorption and chemical properties
Potential interactions between the plastic and the food product inside
Before a product is packaged, it is essential to know whether there will be any unwanted reactions between the packaging material used and the food product inside the material.
The desired duration the product should last.
It is crucial to know how long the product stored is expected to last. When the product is expected to last longer, then a more durable material is to be selected, and when the half-life is short, then the material does not have to be that durable
The cost of producing the material in question should not be too high
Mechanical features of the material
This will include issues such as how easily does it bend; how long can it stay in the sun, and its compatibility with the sterilization procedures
Shipping conditions and handling methods
In such cases when the handling of the product will be vigorous and rough, a more rigid material will be selected, unlike when the shipping process and handling is soft
The location of the target market, including the climate, will make a significant impact on how long the product will survive in that market
Compliance with set standards and regulations
Whatever material is picked, it should be in strict adherence to all the set standards.
The effects on the food quality
The aseptic procedure preserves food products through prompt treatment through high temperatures, followed by a brief holding time, then fast cooling.
Below are some of the effects the packaging can cause to the food products
The flavor of the packaged food is rarely affected. dairy products, though, may acquire a cooked taste caused by contact with sulfhydryl, which is anyway reduced during storage
Dairy products might have a mild change in color due to Maillard Browning. This could be affected by temperatures, reducing sugar levels, pyralisins formation, and how severe the treatment was.
Meat probably will not toughen once processed. Canned products may harden, though.
The viscosity of fruit juice probably will not be affected.
Sliced fruits and vegetables may be softer than if they were unprocessed.
Because of the small processing time and the range of temperature used in sterilization, the products are likely to retain a lot of nutrients such as riboflavin, pantothenic, acid, biotin, niacin, and vitamin B6
Much better nutritional value as well as vitamin content due to low temperatures used
There is more flexibility in picking and packaging the products.
The costs of aseptic packaging are higher than canning due to the vigorous sterilization process and the varied machinery required.
This, together with the cost of maintaining a sterile room, makes it much more expensive.