Water-Based Barrier Coatings (WBBC): The Future Coatings to Make Paper Cups

Water-Based Barrier Coatings (WBBC): The Future Coatings to Make Paper Cups

Traditional oil-based coatings have raised significant environmental and health concerns due to their emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and associated hazards. In response, the Hong Kong government has banned all plastic-coated cups starting from May this year. As industries and consumers search for more sustainable alternatives, water-based barrier coatings have emerged as a leading solution.

This innovative approach has quickly become highly sought after. However, as retailers, vendors, and packaging brands rush to adopt this new trend in hopes of impressing their customers, it’s crucial to understand why water-based coatings are popular, how water-based barrier coating (WBBC) cups are produced, and the potential downsides of WBBC cups. If you’re unclear about these aspects, don’t worry. As a manufacturer of paper containers and cups for decades, Pando has invited our expert to share the latest information on this technology.

What is Water-Based Barrier Coatings

What is Water-Based Barrier Coatings

Water-based barrier coatings are a type of coating used to protect various materials, particularly paper and cardboard, from moisture, grease, oil, and other substances that could potentially damage them or degrade their quality. These coatings are applied as a liquid and, upon drying, form a thin layer that acts as a barrier to protect the underlying material.

Nowadays WBBC is widely used in the packaging industry for food and beverage containers, as well as in other applications where moisture resistance is required without compromising the recyclability of the packaging.

What are Water-Based Barrier Coatings made of?

Water-based barrier coatings are made from a variety of materials that contribute to their protective properties like Polymers; Waxes and Oil; Nanoparticles; and Additives.

However, the specific formulation of a water-based barrier coating can vary depending on the desired characteristics, such as the level of moisture resistance, grease barrier, or breathability.

When it comes to the manufacturing process, the choice of materials is determined by the balance between environmental friendliness, cost, performance requirements, and the specific application. For example, food packaging coatings prioritize safety and barrier properties against fats and oils, while industrial applications might focus more on moisture and chemical resistance.

Why Opt for Water-Based Coatings in Paper Cup Manufacturing

Future of Packaging Solution

Water based barrier coatings are getting popular in 2023 and 2024 as we expected and this is because many countries are regulating the traditional oil made cups in food packaging. As regulations become more rigorous, choosing water-based coatings positions companies as responsible and forward-thinking. It not only meets current regulatory demands but also prepares businesses for future guidelines focused on sustainability and consumer health.

But this trend is also fueled by the coatings’ environmental benefits, such as their plastic-free nature, making them more sustainable and eco-friendly compared to traditional PE (polyethylene) coated paper products.

WBBC is not only recyclable alongside other paper products without the need for special facilities, but it also offers significant advantages in terms of reducing the usage of non-recyclable PE-coated paper, thereby addressing critical environmental concerns.

Companies like Pando is leading the charge in this shift towards more sustainable packaging solutions. We have introduced innovative water-based coatings that are designed for the circular economy, emphasizing the recyclability and reduced eco-impact of our products. Our 2024 PandVert, a circular economy program to use AI packaging technology for recycling, is another innovation based on this.   

As for the consumer’s health benefits, water-based coatings eliminate the use of harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which are often found in other types of coatings. This reduction in toxic substances makes the cups safer for consumers, minimizing potential health risks associated with chemical exposure. It ensures that the product is safer for everyone, from manufacturing personnel to the end consumer.

How Water-Based Coatings Used in Paper Cup Manufacturing

The manufacturing process begins with the shaping of paper into cup forms, followed by the application of a water-based coating. This coating is crucial for creating a liquid-proof barrier, which prevents the paper from becoming soggy when in contact with beverages. Unlike traditional solvent-based coatings, water-based coatings are applied using advanced techniques that ensure even coverage and quick drying times.

After the application of the water-based coating, the cups undergo a drying and curing process. This step is significantly different from methods used with solvent-based coatings. Water-based coatings require efficient drying systems that can handle the coating’s specific drying characteristics. Typically, this involves the use of hot air or infrared drying techniques. The curing process solidifies the coating, enhancing the cup’s durability and liquid resistance.

Unlike solvent-based coatings, which often require longer drying times and emit harmful VOCs into the environment, water-based coatings offer a faster, safer, and more environmentally friendly alternative. This innovative approach not only improves the quality of paper cups but also aligns with global efforts to reduce environmental impact and promote sustainability in manufacturing practices.

Current Challenges of WBBC in Food Packaging

The transition to water-based barrier coatings (WBBC) has presented numerous challenges for industries aiming to enhance their environmental footprint without compromising product quality.

One primary concern is the cost implication; WBBC can be more expensive upfront due to the higher quality ingredients required to achieve comparable performance with solvent-based coatings.

Additionally, production speed is often impacted, as water-based coatings typically require longer drying and curing times, potentially slowing down manufacturing processes. This characteristic is a consequence of their formulation, which relies on water as a solvent rather than faster-evaporating organic solvents found in traditional coatings.

The extended drying time leads to manufacturing workflows, thereby causing adjustments in scheduling and process management to accommodate these slower curing rates. In fact, this may lead to prolonged production cycles for products requiring multiple coating applications, as each layer demands sufficient time to dry completely before the next can be applied. Consequently, industries that transition to water-based barrier coatings must plan for a delay in manufacturing process and find other way around, like investing in accelerated drying technologies or optimizing production schedules.

Another significant hurdle is the durability of the finish, with some perceptions that WBBC may not provide as robust a protection as their solvent-based counterparts.

However, the development of new additives and resins has also improved the durability and performance of WBBC, ensuring they can meet or even exceed the standards set by traditional coatings in various applications.

Industry case studies demonstrate the successful implementation of WBBC across sectors, highlighting significant improvements in environmental impact without sacrificing quality or efficiency. Leading food packaging companies like Pando have demonstrated the successful implementation of WBBC. We have managed to integrate WBBC into our production lines without compromising speed or efficiency. By leveraging state-of-the-art drying technologies, we have significantly reduced the drying time of water-based coatings, aligning production speeds with those of traditional coatings.

Pando’s WBBC Technology

Water-Based Barrier Coating

At Pando, we are proud to introduce our revolutionary WBBC (Water-Based Barrier Coating) technology, an innovative solution designed to redefine packaging sustainability. Our water-based coatings solution is a testament to our commitment to environmental stewardship, offering clients a greener alternative to traditional packaging materials. This cutting-edge technology is not only efficient but also aligns with our strategic goal for 2024 to enhance our recycling program, reinforcing the belief that packaging material deserves a second life.

The PanoVert™ recyclable series embodies our dedication to sustainability, integrating water-based barrier coating technology with the concept of FSC® certified paper. This integration ensures a comprehensive environmental protection strategy for both coating and paper materials, making them recyclable, repulpable, circular, and degradable. We are determined to set a benchmark in the packaging industry by proving that materials can indeed be both high-performing and environmentally friendly.

Understanding the importance of a circular economy for achieving carbon neutrality, Pando actively promotes a shift from the traditional take-make-waste linear economy. Our involvement in the National Circular Economy Development Plan, as outlined in the “14th Five-Year Plan,” showcases our commitment to this shift. Through our phased approach, starting with the introduction of the recyclable PanoVert™ series, to building an efficient packaging recycle system, and finally aiming to realize carbon neutrality by 2050, we are making substantial strides towards a sustainable future.

What’s Next for Water-Based Barrier in Paper Cup Manufacturing?

The popularity of WBBC used in food packaging is not the end of it, but the beginning. Researchers are concentrating on improving the water, oil, and vapor barrier properties of water-based coatings. The goal is to reach or even surpass the protective qualities of traditional petroleum-based coatings, ensuring that paper and cardboard packaging can effectively contain and protect food and beverages without the risk of leakage or contamination.

Also, efforts are underway to enhance the mechanical strength and resistance of WBBC to physical stress and temperature variations. This includes making these coatings more resistant to cracking, peeling, and fading, thereby extending the lifespan of the packaging.

Pando is also one of many innovators who are exploring this technology and sparing no effort to improve the sustainability of paper cups and paper packaging. The future trends in WBBC research and development are geared towards creating more sustainable, safe, and versatile coatings that can meet the demands of modern packaging needs while addressing environmental concerns.


We’ve wrapped up all the aspects of Water based barrier coatings from its concept to how it’s used in manufacturing paper cups and its current challenges and current research.

Indeed WBBC offers a compelling mix of operational efficiency, reduced environmental impact, and compliance with increasingly stringent regulatory standards. By adopting WBBC cups, retailers and vendors can not only contribute to environmental protection but also position their products as preferable choices for eco-conscious consumers. If you want WBBC solutions for your products, don’t hesitate to contact Pando, your food packaging solution expert, always!