Consumers and regulators are demanding increased recyclability and sustainability from everyday packaging such as cups and food containers. Innovative paper and board packages can help brands meet the demand. When it comes to expanding the use of fiber-based packaging to new and more demanding end-uses, chemistry is the key. Chemistry enables renewable paper and board packages that meet high standards of functionality, durability, and safety – while maintaining full recyclability.
We’re excited about the opportunities for the entire packaging value chain and keen to support in the transformation with our chemistry expertise.
So, let’s get together – and Perfect the Picture.
Renewable chemistry: Unlocking the potential of paper and board in packaging
In today’s conscious consumer landscape, brands need to find ways to align their packaging solutions with their sustainability commitments. As a result, the spotlight has turned to renewable, fully recyclable, and biodegradable fiber-based packaging. In this shift, renewable chemistry can provide innovative solutions that allow paper and board to achieve the properties they need to replace traditional plastic in packaging.
Paper and board packaging are renewable by nature and help reduce our reliance on fossil resources.
VP, Biomaterials, Paper & Board, Kemira
Questions you might have
Fiber-based packaging refers to packaging materials made from natural fibers, typically derived from paper or cardboard. These materials originate from renewable sources, primarily the cellulose found in trees, setting them apart as environmentally friendly alternatives to non-renewable packaging material resources, like petroleum-based plastics.
One common example of fiber-based packaging is corrugated cardboard or containerboard, which is widely used for shipping boxes and packaging fragile items. Another example is paperboard packaging, which is versatile packaging material and has many end-uses in packaging food, cosmetics, medicine, and other consumer goods. Or paper bags, made from kraft paper, a type of paper that is strong and tear resistant.
In recent years, there has been a growing demand for fiber-based packaging, as more consumers and businesses embrace sustainability. Due to its natural origin, wood fiber is biodegradable and both compostable and recyclable, giving it clear sustainability benefits over some other packaging materials. Many companies are now opting for fiber-based alternatives to non-renewable plastic and embracing novel solutions such as molded fiber trays, paper-based pouches, and clamshell containers.
In essence, fiber-based packaging offers a more environmentally friendly solution for packaging needs. It’s a step toward reducing plastic waste and promoting sustainability, aligning with the values and preferences of eco-conscious consumers.
Fiber-based packaging offers several advantages, making it a popular choice across various industries.
One of the primary benefits of fiber-based packaging is its sustainability profile. It is made from renewable resources, such as wood pulp, and is additionally biodegradable. This reduces the packaging material’s environmental impact compared to non-renewable alternatives like fossil-based plastics or metals. Moreover, fiber-based packaging can be recycled multiple times, which reduces the demand for virgin materials and also contributes to waste reduction, aligning with the principles of the circular economy.
Fiber-based packaging is highly versatile and can be shaped into various forms to accommodate different products. It can be formed into boxes, trays, cartons, or even used as cushioning material, providing flexibility for packaging design and functionality. Additionally, fiber-based packaging is lightweight, which helps reduce transportation costs and energy consumption during shipping.
Furthermore, fiber-based packaging offers a great platform for branding and creating a positive customer experience. It can easily be printed, customized and branded to enhance product visibility and appeal. Packaging made from virgin fibers is also hygienic and can be used in the most demanding applications where purity and high hygiene standards are needed, such as packaging for medicine or direct food contact. Given its strong association with sustainability, fiber-based packaging itself can positively enhance a brand’s image, resonating with environmentally conscious consumers who value responsible choices.
Packaging sustainability can be defined by various factors that contribute to its environmental, social, and economic impact. The goal of sustainable packaging is to minimize the negative effects on environment, conserve resources, and improve the overall well-being of society. Fiber-based packaging emerges as a sustainable choice for several reasons.
Firstly, fiber-based packaging is derived from renewable resources, such as trees and plants. These resources can be continuously replenished through responsible forestry practices, rendering fiber-based packaging an environmentally conscious option. Secondly, fiber-based packaging is biodegradable and compostable. When disposed of properly, it breaks down naturally, minimizing its environmental impact. Another sustainable attribute lies in fiber-based packaging’s exceptional recyclability. It can be recycled multiple times and repurposed into new products, thus reducing the demand for virgin materials and preserving valuable resources.
Packaging innovations are pivotal for advancing sustainability, and chemistry plays an important role in this equation. It enables the development of novel forms of paper and board packaging, offering solutions that enhance the functional properties in fiber-based packaging, allowing for its use in more demanding applications. Chemistry can also enable the reduction and substitution of traditional plastics as a component in fiber-based packaging, ensuring performance while reducing environmental impact.
Chemistry serves as the unsung hero of fiber-based packaging. It is the invisible enabler, making the diverse applications of fiber-based packaging not only possible, but also functional and safe.
First, chemistry is involved in the production of the raw materials that are used to create the packaging. Fiber-based packaging is typically made from wood pulp or recycled paper, which undergo various chemical processes, transforming them into cellulosic fibers that are suitable for packaging material. Chemistry is also needed to create and enhance the vital functional properties of fiber-based packaging material, such as strength, barrier properties against e.g., moisture or grease, printability, and convertibility. It’s also crucial in ensuring the hygiene and safety of the packaging material, which is particularly important in food and beverage packaging.
Innovative chemistry plays a pivotal role in the development of novel and increasingly sustainable packaging solutions. One such area of development lies in barrier coatings designed for fiber-based food and beverage packaging, such as takeaway boxes, wrappers, and both hot and cold cups. In these specific applications, paper and board packaging materials must exhibit resistance against water and grease. Traditionally, this has been achieved through the use of conventional, typically non-renewable plastic linings like PE (polyethylene) films. This practice poses challenges to the efficient recycling of the packaging materials. Novel recyclable and biodegradable barrier chemistry offers fiber-based packaging the needed protective barrier properties while at the same time preserving the materials recyclability and compostability.
Fiber-based packaging plays a significant role in the ongoing mission to reduce and replace traditional plastics and other non-renewable materials in the packaging industry. It stands as a more sustainable alternative, offering several environmental benefits as a renewable, biodegradable, and easily recyclable packaging material.
Fiber-based materials, such as paperboard or cardboard, lack innate resistance to moisture, grease, and other substances. For these materials to deliver optimal performance and functionality in demanding applications, for example in food and beverage packaging like take-away boxes and cups, they must be treated to gain the needed protective properties. Traditionally, these barrier properties have been achieved through the use of substances like polyethylene (PE) films. However, the use of traditional plastic in fiber-based materials impacts packaging recyclability and biodegradability. Innovative chemistry solutions for fiber-based packaging can help replace PE films and enable the development of fully recyclable and renewable paper and board packaging. These solutions not only retain the crucial protective characteristics but also preserve the packaging’s recyclability and biodegradability.
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See our chemistry offering
Recyclable, functional, and safe paper and board packaging needs special expertise in chemistry. With our unique combination of more than 100 years of expertise and an end-to-end portfolio from pulping to coating, we help you optimize your products to the strictest end-use demands.