DS Smith, a British multinational packaging business headquartered in London, is exploring how seaweed fibers can be used as a raw material in paper and packaging products amid increasing demand for sustainable goods from customers.
In an industry first, the move could see seaweed used across the company’s packaging network,while simultaneously exploring the potential of seaweed as a barrier coating to replace petroleum-based plastic packaging used to protect many foodstuffs.
Executives at DS Smith are talking to several biotechnology companies to explore the use of seaweed fibers in a range of packaging products such as cartons, paper wraps and cardboard trays. “As a leader in sustainability, our research into alternative raw material and fibre sources has the potential to be a real game changer,” said Thomas Ferge, Paper and Board Development Director at DS Smith.
“Consumers increasingly want products that are easy to recycle and have a minimal impact on the environment. Seaweed is one of the many alternative natural materials we’re closely looking at, and while most people probably associate it with the beach or as an ingredient in sushi, it could have some exciting applications for us to help create the next generation of sustainable paper and packaging solutions,” Mr. Ferge said.
Given its wide range of uses, seaweed in manufacturing is a burgeoning market. The European seaweed industry alone is predicted to be worth almost £8billion by 2030, generating some 115,000 jobs, according to 2020’s Seaweed for Europe: Hidden Champion of the Ocean report.
The seaweed packaging project is part of DS Smith’s £100m Circular Economy R&D programme announced earlier this year. It’s work on natural fibers also includes other innovative natural materials such as straw, hemp, miscanthus and cotton, as well as from more unusual sources such as the daisy-flowered cup plant and agricultural waste like cocoa shells or bagasse — the pulp fiber left over after sugarcane is processed.
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