Stora Enso is piloting production of FuraCore – a 100 per cent bio-based alternative to petroleum-based PET – which it says could be a "game changer" in the packaging industry.
Stora Enso has been developing a breakthrough technology called FuraCore to produce FDCA, laying the foundation for a plastic that, as people working with the technology like to say, makes sense.
FuraCore has the ability to make furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), an organic chemical compound that occurs in nature and is the key building block for bio-based plastics such as PEF. It can be applied to a wide variety of industrial applications, including bottles, food packaging, textiles, carpets, electronic materials, and automotive parts.
According to Dirk den Ouden, VP Emerging Business, Division Biomaterials at Stora Enso, FuraCore has all the features that society would like to see today in a packaging material. "It is bio-based, there are great barrier characteristics, and it can fit in the existing recycling structure. It is safe to say we have a plastic that has the potential to be a game changer in the packaging industry," he said.
One of the benefits of bio-based plastic is that it is not produced from crude oil – its ingredients are derived from growing plants, which not only grow back after harvesting, but also absorb carbon dioxide during their growth.
The material also shows significant advantages for food and beverage packaging – PEF could replace other plastic bottles, aluminium cans and glass jars in a wide variety of applications and industries, says Stora Enso.
Tests also show excellent barrier properties, enabling better protection and longer shelf life, or lighter, more efficient packaging, and provides great opportunities for differentiation, an important element in the packaging landscape, says the company.
"If you look at all the different features needed to get a certain shelf life, shape or behaviour, it often requires combining different technologies and multiple materials. If you can use a single material that serves the purpose, there’s going to be great benefit in utilising it compared to more common solutions, including easier recycling," added Den Ouden.
Stora Enso is starting up the FuraCore FDCA pilot plant at its Langerbrugge recycled paper mill near Ghent, Belgium. Currently, the pilot is in the final stages of commissioning. The plan is to produce the first material in the northern hemisphere’s autumn season and be in full production mode towards the end of the year.
Den Ouden believes that a wide range of applications is on its way: "I think the opportunity we bring about is a plastic that makes sense. In addition to fulfilling the customer need for circularity, I think the message here is that there is a beautiful new material on its way that is about to get commercialised. We strongly encourage packaging industry companies to reach out so we can see if it meets your customer needs."