The plant at the company’s Langerbrugge Mill in Belgium, one the largest paper mills in Europe, producing 540,000 tonnes of recycled newsprint and magazine papers annually, will convert plant-based sugars to make PEF, a bio-based plastic, mainly targeting the food and beverage industry.
Decisions about commercialisation will follow after evaluating the results of the pilot-scale production.
Markus Mannström, executive VP, Biomaterials, Stora Enso, said bio-based materials are of increasing interest as companies look for sustainable packaging materials with high performance.
“With this pilot, we continue to build on our long-term R&D work while targeting new markets with innovative, renewable materials that replace fossil-based materials,” he said.
“Innovation does not happen in isolation. We are looking forward to expanding our cooperation within the field of bio-based chemicals.”
The pilot plant will focus on developing a cost-competitive process for manufacturing FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid) from sugars.
FDCA is a key component of the bio-based barrier material PEF (polyethylene furanoate). PEF’s attractive barrier, mechanical and thermal properties open up new packaging opportunities, such as small liquid containers for soft drinks, juices and other beverages.
The pilot facility will initially use industrially available fructose to produce high-value chemicals and materials for application testing.
In the future, the intention is to run the process on sugars extracted from wood and other non-food biomasses.
Stora Enso announced this month it was merging its container board business in Packaging Solutions with its Consumer Board division to create a Packaging Materials division, effective January 2020.
Annica Bresky, president/CEO, Stora Enso, said the decision to reform the business divisions is based on a circular bioeconomy.
“The Packaging Materials division will provide an even stronger customer offering for converters, brand owners and retailers containing both virgin and recycled board material,” she said.
“For Packaging Solutions, we are increasing our focus on growing new services and packaging as well as collaborations throughout the value chain for developing renewable packaging. One example is our formed fibre business, which will be included in the Packaging Solutions division.
“We will also be able to focus more on renewable packaging design.”
The PEF pilot project for bio-based plastic packaging will be run by Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.
The Langerbrugge paper mill provides space and infrastructure for hosting the facility. Also, the Ghent area in Belgium is home to a large number of chemical production sites.