The Quest for an Eco-Conscious Freezer Paper - Take Two

Not long ago we posted about our quest for an eco-conscious freezer paper to protect prints mounted on bamboo during production and shipping.  The short of it was the few products we tested did not pass our tests, leaving us searching for an alternative to the plastic laminated freezer paper that is a standard in the print world.  Not long after publishing that post we were contacted by a local company, Pac Paper Inc., informing us of a new eco-friendly freezer paper they created, EcoWrap®.

They sent us a sample and we ran it through the same tests we subjected the other papers to: dust test, scratch test, prolonged contact test, and the “real world” production and shipping test.  Here we’ll share a little about the paper and its claims, then the results on the tests and where that leaves us in our quest for an alternative to standard freezer paper...

We are prepped to put EcoWrap to the test (Photo credit: Dave Hall)

Intro to EcoWrap®

EcoWrap is first and foremost a freezer paper.  Apparently one of the big challenges of creating an eco-friendly freezer paper is preventing moisture transfer through the paper. EcoWrap supposedly “locks moisture in,” which is great but won’t be relevant for us until we release Plywerk ice-cream sandwiches--one of many product ideas languishing in R&D.

We are excited about EcoWrap’s claims of being the world’s first freezer paper that is fully recyclable and compostable, providing two pathways to extend its productive life. The recyclability of pulpable items is relatively straightforward, but compostability is another beast altogether and a common source of confusion and misunderstanding.  First, there is a technical difference between biodegradable and compostable, with the later being more stringent.  Basically, a compostable product has to be able to become useful compost in a safe and timely manner, while biodegradable products just have to breakdown in a “timely manner.”  If you want to further geek out on the distinction between these terms we encourage you to go here.  As for EcoWrap’s claim of compostability they are still waiting on final test results to see if they are Certified Compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute, so stay tuned...

Okay, so EcoWrap is pretty cool.  But for us, the important thing is whether it will perform in the role of print protector through our photo mounting process.  For details on the rationale and scientific rigor employed in these tests, please refer to our first blog post on this subject.  Here we will keep it short and sweet and focus on the results.

Dust Test

Hawkeye gives approval for the Dust Test to proceed (Photo credit: Dave Hall)

The dust test ended up being months, so keep that in mind when viewing the white glove test results before you worry about us breathing heavy volumes of dust everyday.  It’s hard to tell in the pic below, but all three of our raters agreed that the first and second digits were the dustiest--the two fingers associated with the front and back of the EcoWrap paper.  Not off to a good start, but by no means a deal breaker.

Proof that dust accumulates over time (Photo credit: Dave Hall)

Scratch Test

The scratch test could be a deal breaker.  Results revealed EcoWrap as a serious contender, It actually outperformed normal freezer paper on the Metallic print.  While some concern was raised on its affects on the Satin Photo Rag and Satin Silver Rag prints, we were already considering dropping these prints entirely from production.  One more reason to do so!

Prolonged Contact Test

After months of direct contact with prints mounted on bamboo the question is whether there is any sticking or discoloration caused by EcoWrap.  Nope, perfect performance (just like all the papers in the initial round of testing)!

JJ diligently inspects a print mounted on bamboo for blemishes (Photo credit: Dave Hall)

Production Line and Shipping Test

This was a new test based on the idea of simulating the real-world experience of how EcoWrap would be in contact with prints on wood through the production process and shipping.  Primary concern was on the Satin Photo Rag which uniquely performed poorly in the scratch test.  We simply went through the standard Plywerk process and simulated a long and rough shipping experience captured here on video:

The result?  Well, there was a noticeable effect on the sheen of the print.  Nothing constituting damage, but an effect.  This gave us serious pause... until a couple weeks later we decided to stop printing with this paper--it wasn’t getting much demand and was a pain in our side for other reasons as well.  Another case of simplifying winning the day!

Conclusion

Overall, EcoWrap performed reasonably well on our battery of tests--definitely better than the other eco-friendly products we tested the first time around.  It wasn’t perfect, and we did some humming and hawing, but in the end decided it did not pose an undue risk to our print quality, and the benefits of further embodying our eco-conscious ideals and supporting another local business led us to embrace EcoWrap and incorporate it into our production process. We are able to sleep a little better at night having shed our dependence on regular freezer paper and, instead, being able to send this eco-conscious product with each Plywerk art panel into the homes of our wonderful customers.  When you get your next Plywerk, you can simply throw the sheet of EcoWrap into your regular paper recycling.  And. we’ll get back to you when official word on its compostability comes in, so stay tuned...

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