Eco-friendly replacement for plastic bags in the pipeline
The problem of plastic pollution has grown to devastating proportions. EU-funded research is supporting the development and large-scale production of an eco-friendly replacement for plastic bags that should help significantly reduce plastic waste.
© Paptic Ltd, 2018
It is estimated that in the EU around 100 billion plastic bags are currently used every year. This is a tremendous waste as they are very often used only once, too rarely recycled and many end up in our seas and oceans. The challenge of reducing plastic waste has become an environmental imperative. It also provides a potential opportunity for Europe to lead the way by creating alternative sustainable solutions.
The EU-funded PAPTIC project is doing just that with its novel wood-fibre-based material PAPTIC ® that combines the renewability of paper with the resource efficiency and functionality of plastics. Once fully developed, PAPTIC bags will be 100 % biodegradable and recyclable, with at least 85 % renewable content. The patented PAPTIC ® process offers the worlds first economically sound and environment-friendly alternative to plastic for carrier bags and certain plastic packaging.
The EU has supported PAPTIC in the process of scaling up production to an industrial level capable of achieving the cost efficiency needed for PAPTIC to become an economically viable and acceptable alternative and to be taken up on as wide a scale as possible, says Tuomas Mustonen, project coordinator and CEO of PAPTIC Ltd.
First of its kind
It is the first fully biodegradable and recyclable environmental alternative to plastic to be proposed and its uptake is expected to be exponential, says Mustonen. Most bioplastics are either biodegradable or recyclable our product is both.
Furthermore, most bioplastics do not degrade well in the marine environment and so add to the problem. PAPTIC will help the EU reach the ambitious environmental and plastic reduction targets set out in its own directives and in the Paris Agreement.
The first full-scale production unit of the PAPTIC technology is not expected to come into operation until after the end of the project, in 2019. In the meantime, however, the team has already started producing a modified version of PAPTIC based on existing machines used for the production of paper. Although not as efficient, economical or sustainable as the original PAPTIC process, it has allowed them to start delivering their product already in 2018.
In a second phase, this business will be converted step by step to the original PAPTIC technology, gradually improving the cost efficiency, environmental footprint and scalability of the material.
In a third phase, the PAPTIC technology will be licensed for use by other manufacturers in order to help scale up its use even further. The prototype demonstration line, produced with the help of the EU, will make it easier for us to spread our technology further as we are minimising the technology risk for other potential investors by building the first machine ourselves and demonstrating that we can ensure a stable supply of high-quality material, says Mustonen.
Another potential benefit of the PAPTIC project is the possible opportunities it may provide to the paper industry which has been put under pressure by the decline in paper consumption. The PAPTIC process lends itself to being adapted from the paper-producing process and could help avoid predicted job losses, particularly in hard-hit rural areas. It will also provide opportunities for plastic-conversion businesses hit by the reduction in plastic use.