Molded-fiber packaging based on natural fibers is used as a substitute to plastic-based products for food-packaging such as take-away containers, plates and bowls. Natural fibers have been replacing plastic as these fibers are renewable, biodegradable and compostable. Bio-based fibers containing cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin such as wood pulp or bagasse, a residual product from sugar-cane production, are typically used for this type of applications.
Moulded fibre products can be produced through wet-moulding processes or as dry-moulded products. Wet-moulding is the main process used today to produce moulded fibre packaging. In that process, the raw-feedstock is dispersed in water to create a slurry. At that stage, additives can be directly added to the slurry to improve the properties of the final product. The slurry is then pumped over a screen to create a fibre mesh, which is later pressed into the desired form and dried to create the ready-to-use product. Moulded packaging can also be produced through dry-moulding. In that case, an air-laid web of fibres is pressed into the desired shape. Performance additives are usually added to the product in the form of coatings that can be applied either to the airlaid web before pressing or on the final product.
Additives are typically used to improve the barrier properties of packaging materials such as water-, oil- and grease repellents. A common type of additives used for that purpose is per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, PFAS. These man-made chemicals have been used in many applications because of their unique chemical properties and high thermal stability. However, even though FDA-approved variants are currently used, PFAS substances are now debated due to their high environmental impact. PFAS are persistent or degrade into persistent molecules and some of these substances are also mobile. Therefore, these substances are not suitable for production of compostable products since they will accumulate in the compost and eventually be released in the environment.
The Swedish based global manufacturer of disposable packaging and take-away products is now looking for alternative technologies/chemical solutions to replace the use of PFAS in their fibre-moulded products. The company is looking for PFAS-free solutions that should be compatible with existing fibre-moulding processes and provides similar barrier properties as PFAS solution does.
The company is primarily looking for solutions that are close to being commercially available, but ideas at a lower technical readiness level and closer to research could also be of interest.
The company is seeking collaborations with chemical providers, within a framework of a manufacturing agreement, that can supply the solution to cover both current and future need of moulded fibre based products. Volume is currently around 300 Mpcs and growing with ~30% annually.