orange peel
 Switching from PET to PEF can reduce the carbon footprint of plastic bottles by 50 per cent, according to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Image: Adobe

Finnish researchers turn orange peel into bio-based alternative to PET

VTT has developed technology for using agricultural waste containing pectin, such as citrus peel and sugar beet pulp, as raw material for polyethylene furanoate (PEF) plastics for replacing polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Replacing the fossil-based polymer with its fully recyclable bio-based counterpart can not only reduce the carbon footprint of plastic bottles by 50 per cent, but also extend the shelf life of food products thanks to the superior barrier properties of PEF.

Orange juice could thus soon be available in bottles made of orange peel, pointed out Holger Pöhler, a professor of practice at VTT.

“VTT’s novel technology provides a circular approach to using food waste streams for high-performance food packaging material and, at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he highlighted.

The patented technology offers significant advantages for the production of PEF. It enables a highly efficient production process by utilising a stable intermediate for producing 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, one of the monomers of PEF, and opens up new possibilities for the circular economy of plastics by utilising waste streams.

VTT highlighted that its scale-up infrastructure will ensure the technology will be at a readiness level that allows polymer manufacturers to adopt it on a full scale easily.

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