Finnish technical research centre VTT has developed a transparent cellulose film, which aims to replace traditional plastic films used in food packaging and reduce microplastics.
According to VTT, food packages fulfill their most important tasks when they protect food and minimise waste, but thin plastic films are quite difficult to recycle, and more often than not end up in the wrong places after use.
VTT says that, apart from plastic's protective properties, it has functional visual attributes because consumers want packages that allow them to see the product itself. However, once they have been used, many plastic packages are a source of waste problems.
On top of that, VTT said some of the materials have alternating layers of fibre and plastic, and many packages are placed among mixed waste by people who cannot think of a better way of disposing of it.
“We can produce transparent and flexible cellulose film. The consumer cannot distinguish between the crystal-clear material and traditional oil-based plastic,” said Ali Harlin, research professor at VTT.
“Cellulose film can resist dampness, but in nature it disappears as completely as a sheet of paper does. The product is bio-based and biodegradable.”
“The cellulose film developed by VTT can replace plastic as a more climate-friendly solution,” said Atte Virtanen, vice-president for biomaterial processing and products at VTT.
“It also makes recycling easy, as it can be placed in cardboard recycling along with other packages.”
The production of the packaging material is in the pilot phase, and VTT predicts it could be in extensive industrial use in 5-7 years.