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Norway experiments with plastics replacement

Norway – A team of Norwegian scientists at The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) is working towards creating a replacement for plastics that is derived from wood.

In collaboration with Norwegian company Borregaard, SINTEF is experimenting with a wood fibre of only 100 nanometres in diameter, called micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC), with which they want to manufacture a membrane that disables access to gases such as oxygen. If they succeed, MFC might be used as a reinforcement material for biodegradable plastics to protect foodstuffs in the form of bottles, jars and plastic foil.

Project Manager and Senior Scientist Åge Larsen states that, while most of today’s plastics are petroleum-based, it is important to create a climate-friendly alternative to plastics. ‘Our aim is to develop materials that will, ideally, be climate-neutral,’ he says. ‘In any case, as the oil runs down, we are going to need alternative raw materials.’

According to Mr Larsen, recycling has only limited effectiveness in reducing the amount of plastic waste. ‘Recycling is useful, but in practice, recycled plastics often end up a step or two lower down the quality ladder than the original raw material,’ he says. ‘This is why we believe that MFC fibrils in combination with bioplastics will help us produce high-quality, environmentally-friendly packaging.’

The first prototypes are expected in a couple of years.

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