The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed new technology that enables the use of pectin-containing agriculture waste, such as citrus peel and sugar beet pulp, as raw material for bio-based polyethylene furanoate (PEF) plastics for replacing fossil-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
When replacing the raw PET material with PEF polymers, which also provide a better shelf life for food, the carbon footprint of plastic bottles can be lowered by 50 percent.
“In the near future, you may buy orange juice bottles that are made of orange peel. VTT’s novel technology provides a circular approach to using food waste streams for high-performance food packaging material, and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” noted Professor of Practice Holger Pöhler from VTT.
Replacing fossil-based PET with plant-based PEF polymers can lower the carbon footprint of the products by 50 percent. The annual production of PET products is estimated at 30 million tonnes. The barrier properties of PEF plastics are also better than PETS, so the food products have a longer shelf life.
VTT’s technology uses a stable intermediate to produce FDCA (2,5- furandicarboxylic acid), one of the monomers of PEF, which enables an efficient process. In addition, utilising pectin-containing waste streams opens up new possibilities for the circular economy of plastics.
VTT said its scale-up infrastructure from laboratory to pilot scale will ensure the new patented technology will be brought to a technology readiness level that will allow p[olymer manufacturers’ easy transition to full scale.