DTI and CelluComp collaborate on packaging made from fibers derived from sugar beet pulp | Article

The Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and CelluComp have developed Curran, a fiber-based packaging material that is composed of micro-fibrillated cellulose from sugar beet pulp and an ultra-thin biodegradable coating that is said to block oxygen, water and fats .

The packaging, called Curran, is the result of collaboration between the Danish Institute of Technology and the Scottish company CelluComp. The wrap is made from fibers extracted from sugar beets, and the organizations claim it is compostable and biodegradable.

Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of CelluComp, explains: “We have developed a method of extracting micron-sized platelets from sugar beet pulp (a co-product stream of sugar production), which we call Curran. After this process, we produce a product in the form of granules – similar to grated cheese.

“Curran is particularly suitable for paper-based packaging because it makes the packaging much stronger and closes the porosity of the sheet, allowing the application of water-based barrier coatings.”

DTI says it has developed special molds for the new packaging, which allow the mass to be molded into cups and coated with an ultra-thin, seemingly biodegradable coating. The organizations claim that the coating blocks oxygen, water and fat.

Lars Germann, Center Director at the Danish Institute of Technology, adds: “Together with CelluComp and its partners, we have applied a new type of coating, called REEF, which has excellent barrier properties, stability to water and heat sealability.

The organizations note that when using traditional kraft pulp, a phenomenon called “fiber lifting” or “dusting,” where individual fibers break loose and protrude through the thin coating, occurs on the surface. According to Germann: “We have developed a new pulp, which we call NEST, which consists of both ordinary cellulose fibers and Curran.

“It helps us solve the problem and use the full potential of the coating. The interaction between the two building blocks eliminates the problem of fiber lifting, and we now have a completely airtight, food-approved packaging solution.

While the organizations say fiber-based packaging could potentially be sorted and recycled into paper in the future, it is currently not sortable at Danish sorting centres.

Germann says: “In the near future, sorting centers are expected to be advanced enough to classify paper packaging.

“This is revolutionary, as paper-based food packaging such as milk cartons are usually coated with a thin layer of plastic film or wax, which makes them unsuitable for sorting paper.

“We expect that the new type of packaging will be able to replace up to 10,000 tonnes of plastic food packaging with 8,000 tonnes of recyclable and biodegradable paper packaging in Denmark. This means a CO2 saving of more than 20,000 tons per year.

Additionally, Curran could be used in other products outside of packaging, such as a thickener in paints, household or personal care products, or as an additive in foods to reduce sugar and fat.

Kemp-Griffin concludes, “We have learned a lot from each other over the past four years. The Danish Technological Institute brought strong skills, provided equipment and was open and focused throughout the collaboration. In particular, their facilities within the pilot production were crucial to achieving our goal.

Rachel J. Bradford