FINLAND – State-owned technical research institute, VTT has developed a transparent cellulose film to replace traditional plastic in food packaging.
VTT believes that regenerated or recrystallized cellulose can replace plastic films, which are difficult to recycle and end up in the wrong places after use.
Food packages fulfill their most important tasks when they protect food and minimize waste. Thin plastic films are nevertheless difficult to recycle, and they often end up in the wrong places after use.
VTT research professor Ali Harlin said: “We can produce transparent and flexible cellulose film. The consumer cannot distinguish between the crystal-clear material and traditional oil-based plastic.”
“Cellulose film can resist dampness, but in nature, it disappears as completely as a sheet of paper does. The product is biobased and biodegradable.”
VTT stated that plastics allow consumers to see the product apart from protecting it, but once they have been used, many packages are sources of problems.
When a package has paper and plastic, the consumer may get confused if it can be recycled with cardboard, or if the plastic needs to be torn off first.
Several packages are placed among mixed waste by people who cannot think of a better way of disposing of it.
Plastic that lands in a cardboard recycling bin can be eliminated, but the plastic usually ends up incinerated, said VTT.
VTT biomaterial processing and products vice president Atte Virtanen said: “The cellulose film developed by VTT can replace plastic as a more climate-friendly solution. It also makes recycling easy, as it can be placed in cardboard recycling along with other packages.”
“VTT has researched cellulose films for more than ten years, and for more than six years on regenerated cellulose in transparent films.”
The production of packaging material is in the pilot phase, and it could be in extensive industrial use in 5–7 years.
The state-owned research institute aims to help find environmental solutions in Finland, which remains far from the goals set by the EU for reducing the environmental harm caused by plastics.
At present, about 20 percent of plastics are collected, and even less end up recycled. Under the EU target, 55 percent of plastics should be recycled by 2025.
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