Paper packaging has a bright future, say Swedish researchers

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Innventia's 'chemical-free' pressed cellulose board
Innventia's 'chemical-free' pressed cellulose board

Related tags: Sustainability, Future

In a new report, Swedish researchers have suggested what the industry for paper packaging and other pulp-derived products, including bio-based barrier and shaping, might look in 15 years’ time.

The Innventia forestry and packaging research institute’s report, Papermaking Towards the Future​, expands on the idea of the ‘bio-refinery’ as the likely hub for future developments.

Over 40% of international experts surveyed believed that bio-refining, with the production of papers, bio-based plastics, chemicals, textiles and bio-energy clustered around a pulp mill, would be the most profitable approach for the future.

Specialised packaging  

One of the changes project manager Paul Krochak outlined in his presentation of the report was a move away from commodity towards speciality products. “With people using the same paper or board, there’s often been nothing exciting about it,”​ he said. “In the past, plastics had an advantage because they had shaping. But we can do this now with paper. Couldn’t we produce very specialised packaging for every brand-owner?”

The use of 3D features to differentiate brands was “where the most exciting future lies”,​ he added.

Here, pressed board could be one of the technologies on offer. “But for now, I believe there are still some technical hurdles to overcome with it,”​ he said. Innventia itself has produced pure cellulose pressed board using just heat, pressure and water.

Health and sustainability issues would become more influential in future, said Innventia. Senior manager for process solutions Marco Lucisano said: “As the global population becomes more educated and more​ [health] conscious, along with legal regulations and directives, product safety becomes increasingly important.”

Conflicting interests

There are conflicting interests regarding, on one hand, the economic and environmental desirability of recycled content and, on the other, food-contact imperatives, Innventia admitted.

Concern over mineral oil migration had made food manufacturers even more wary, Krochak said: “But with biopolymers, the applications are limitless. They could be used to provide a barrier layer.”

The use of nano-cellulose could also have a transforming effect on paper’s possibilities.

 

Related topics: Packaging materials

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