In May this year, Stora Enso and Pulpex joined forces with the aim of industrializing the production of bottles and containers made from wood fibre pulp. We caught up with Sohrab Kazemahvazi, senior vice president for formed fiber at Stora Enso, to learn more about this project and assess its implications for the beverage industry.
Could you tell us more about the features of the bottle – what are its constituent elements made from and how is the bottle itself made?
The bottles are fibre-based and are designed to be PET/HDPE-free. Pulpex packaging is designed to be compatible with existing closures, which are made from a range of materials. Brands have a choice of closures depending on product category and their specific needs.
Pulpex bottles are produced via a multi-patented process that involves pressurising pulp into single-mould containers, curing them in microwave ovens, and then spraying the bottles internally with a proprietary food-grade coating designed to be compatible with the products they are holding (for more information on the journey behind the bottle, including a video about how they are produced, visit the Pulpex website.
What material does the solution use as a barrier layer?
Pulpex uses proprietary food-grade coatings specially designed to be compatible with the product the bottle is holding. This depends fully on the end-use. However, we do not use traditional plastics and offer barriers that are PET/HDPE-free.
In terms of end-of-life – how can consumers recycle this product within existing waste streams?
Pulpex packaging can be recycled in standard waste streams as you would normally recycle paper and cardboard. As global recycling rates are far higher for paper and cardboard than for plastic, pulp-based packaging has a much higher chance of actually being recycled and becoming more ‘circular’. In the event a Pulpex bottle is not recycled, it will degrade readily in the natural environment.
How will this solution ensure compliance with the upcoming EU stipulations on tethered closures?
Pulpex packaging is designed to be compatible with existing closures, which are made from a range of materials. Brands have a choice of closures depending on product category and their specific needs.
You say that these bottles and containers “could enable a significantly lower carbon footprint compared with glass or PET.” Could you let us know more about the reasoning/evidence behind this?
Life Cycle Analysis is performed by each brand in the context of the product’s complete life cycle, from manufacture through to distribution. We feed information to our partners as required to complete their studies. Broadly, we know we have a lower carbon footprint (90% less than glass and 30% less than PET).
What does the future hold for this initiative – do you think these solutions can become a mainstream alternative to PET?
Yes – That is the ambition with starting to produce the bottles on an industrial scale. The ambition is to make this bottle a scalable and cost-efficient alternative to existing solutions.