10. Dec 2020
The shift from fossil-based to renewable bio-plastics requires new efficient methods. New technology developed at VTT enables the use of pectin-containing agricultural waste, such as citrus peel and sugar beet pulp, as the raw material for producing bio-based PEF-plastics.
PEF is a biopolyester that could, in the future, replace PET in a wide range of applications. PEF is a fully recyclable and renewable high-performance plastic. Therefore, it opens up possibilities for the industries to reduce waste and to have positive impact on the environment.
According to VTT, the carbon footprint of plastic bottles made with PEF is 50% smaller than when using PET. At the same time, the barrier properties of PEF are superior to those of PET. This means that the shelf life of food products packaged in PEF is longer.
“In the near future, you may buy orange juice in bottles that are made out of orange peel. 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,” said Professor of Practice Holger Pöhler at VTT.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and other polyesters are widely used in food packaging, plastic bottles and textiles. The annual production of PET products is estimated at 30 million tonnes.
VTT’s technology uses a stable intermediate for the production of FDCA (2,5-furandicarboxylic acid), one of the monomers of PEF, which enables a highly efficient process. In addition, utilising pectin-containing waste streams opens up new possibilities for the circular economy of plastics.
VTT’s unique scale-up infrastructure from laboratory to pilot scale ensures that this new technology will be brought to a technology readiness level that will allow polymer manufacturers’ easy transition to full scale.
VTT has patented the technology. A study appeared in the scientific journal Green Chemistry on 7 December 2020: A unique pathway to platform chemicals: aldaric acids as stable intermediates for the synthesis of furandicarboxylic acid esters