June 1, 2018

Five for Friday: Plastic alternatives

Finland is helping to create a plastic-free future.
Finland is helping to create a plastic-free future.
Julia Bushueva

This week’s EU proposal to reduce marine litter means abundant opportunities for Finns providing plastic-free solutions.

Across the world, plastics make up 85 per cent of marine litter. In order to tackle this problem, the European Union has proposed new EU-wide rules that outlaw 10 single-use plastic products.

These Finnish innovations can help stem the tide.

Sulapac

Based on wood and natural adhesive, this biodegradable multipurpose packaging can be mass-produced using methods and facilities that now make plastic. The world has sat up and taken notice: the company has completed a million-euro funding round and been awarded in Monaco, Berlin and Paris. Currently the focus is on cosmetics packaging, but the world waits for more.

“We’re agile and ready to pivot and change our business model if needs be,” co-founder Suvi Haimi said last year.

Paptic

Some 100 billion plastic bags are used every year in Europe alone. This startup aims to substitute plastic bags with bags made from a new material based on wood fibre. This is just the tip of the plastic iceberg.

“We have investigated flexible packaging for non-food items such as toys and toiletries; shipping envelopes for e-commerce deliveries; and posters, banners and labels for graphic applications,” CEO Tuomas Mustonen said in 2016. “The performance parameters of Paptic, such as flexibility and tear resistance, make it an attractive material for many uses.”

Kotkamills

This Finnish company is tackling the growing piles of disposable dishes that are littering the horizon. It has developed a water-based dispersion solution that could be used to create fully recyclable virgin fibre-based carton board suitable for food packaging, such as coffee cups.

“If all goes well, in the future we will only be producing recyclable food service board,” CEO Markku Hämäläinen told us in 2016. “It’s a growing and profitable business.”

VTT

Unsurprisingly, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland appears on this list. First, it has developed a method for the production of furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from plant sugars. FDCA can be used to produce items such as drinking bottles, paints and industrial resins.

Second, VTT’s compostable and lightweight plastic-like packaging material was awarded earlier this year for combining cellulose films with different complementary properties.

“In a new plastics economy, plastics will never become waste or enter the ocean in the first place,” Dame Ellen MacArthur said at the time. “To get there will require new levels of commitment and collaboration from industry, governments, designers and startups.”

Metsä Board

Proving the old adage correct that all good things come in pairs, Metsä Board’s skincare gift box won first place at the Luxe Pack Shanghai Awards both this year and last year.

Made from lightweight paperboard, the packaging was upgraded in 2017, reducing packaging material use by 25–30 per cent and offering a completely plastic-free packaging solution.

Cyril Drouet, design and innovation director at Metsä Board, was delighted with the response to the upgraded solution, highlighting the company’s intention to “inspire packaging designers and brand owners with new innovative solutions in packaging design and using renewable materials”.

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