25. Aug 2023

New cellulose-based packaging films

New cellulose-based packaging films

The goal is an easily recyclable, cellulose-based material that reduces waste and replaces unsustainable fossil-based materials such as plastic in packaging applications.

LUT University (Lappeenranta, Finland) and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Espoo, Finland) are developing new environmentally friendly packaging solutions with 34 industrial partners. In the Films for Future (F3) research project, a cellulose-based alternative will replace the plastic films of cardboard packages. The program is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

”New cellulose films can partly outdo the traditional plastic films made from fossil raw materials. This way, we’re helping renewable and sustainable packaging materials become globally more common”, says Ville Leminen, associate professor of mechanical engineering at LUT University.

Packages with biobased and biodegradable films will make recycling easier, because they can be put straight into the cardboard recycling pile. Recyclability will also minimize the amount of waste and tackle littering.

”If a wrong kind of package ends up in a cardboard recycling pile, the machine starts to malfunction and all the material goes to waste. The biobased film fits in the existing recycling systems, which will also improve the system’s fault resilience”, tells Research Professor Ali Harlin of VTT.

The new film material will also meet the demands of the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which deals with the shift to a circular economy and improving the quality of the environment.

Six criteria for sustainable packages
• Protects the food, decreases the amount of waste
• Minimizes environmental harm
• Is efficiently recyclable
• Ensures safety and quality
• Supports the business of food system operators
• Fits consumers’ everyday life and choices

New business opportunities for Finnish companies
In the F3 project, VTT researches and develops the properties of the cellulose film. LUT University, in turn, verifies packaging performance, tailors the converting process, equipment, and tooling, and examines the value chain of the new product.

“The goal is to optimize the film properties and functionality to enable novel high value applications. Food protection is naturally the top priority, but we also develop large scale production processes in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Ultimately, we need to understand the market and consumers of these films”, explains Vinay Kumar, VTT’s research team leader.

In addition to LUT and VTT, 34 notable companies representing the whole packaging value chain are participating in the research project. The companies will be able to utilize the discoveries from the research in their products and business.

”We have a wide network of both Finnish and international companies, which is a sign of trust in our abilities to develop new ecological material and packaging solutions”, says Head of Development Mika Kainusalmi from LUT University.

According to Kainusalmi, the research project strengthens LUT’s packaging technology research and education. It also adds to the scientific knowledge and understanding of packaging materials and converting processes. AT


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