Renewable food packaging has been the theme for a three year long research project at Stora Enso Research Centre in Imatra. As a result 13 new patents have been filed including a technical breakthrough in wood-based raw materials for PE (polyethylene). Also a number of other innovations will now be further developed in cooperation with customers and partners.
Food packaging is a vast and technically demanding area with all the different foodstuffs and their specific requirements for protection against moisture, light, grease, contamination and temperatures, as well as for consumers’ various habits to consume and prepare their foods. Industrial filling processes, logistics, food safety and shelf-life requirements, as well as recycling and waste management pose crucial questions as well – questions that touch the well-being of people and the planet.
Today, many brand owners are actively looking for possibilities to increase the share of renewable materials in their packaging. That makes “green polymers”, which are based on renewable raw materials, a very interesting development area.
“In the course of our research project we have already seen food packages with the sugarcane-based PE Green coating entering the market, such as the candy cups, ice cream packaging and fish packaging. Thanks to our project, we also know now how to produce raw materials for PE from wood, once it becomes economically feasible,” says Project Manager Outi Kylliäinen from Stora Enso Research Centre in Imatra.
The research programme also looked into compostability of materials, properties of biopolymer coatings and formability of board in specific applications.
“If we find ways to convert board more cost-effectively, it will become much more attractive material option against plastic, which will open new, profitable business opportunities both for Stora Enso and for our converter customers,” says Outi Kylliäinen.