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Microplastic-free Sulapac-material challenges plastic

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SULACHANGE (Microplastic-free Sulapac-material challenges plastic)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2020-10-31

The extensive use of plastic in packaging is a growing global challenge. Over 30% of the 78 million tons produced annually ends up polluting our environment. There is not a great alternative for the plastic yet in the mass market: biodegradable bioplastics degrade too slowly and non-biodegradable bioplastics pollute the world with microplastic.
Finnish SME Sulapac has created the most sustainable packaging solution in the world. It is 100% biodegradable and contains 0% microplastics. Sulapac® has all the benefits of plastic, but without the waste problem. The renewable woodbased material has a low carbon footprint, yet it is similar to plastic in terms of price, formability and functionality.
Sulapac® is a fast biodegrading water, oil and oxygen resistant material solution. It is suitable for mass manufacturing of rigid and flexible packaging such as jars and tubes. It can also be used for light weight packaging. Sulapac is a real
alternative to plastics used in high-volume cosmetics and food industries.
The aim of the SULACHANGE project is to finalise our product offering to capture the full potential of our unique material and prepare for global scale market introduction. We will optimise our recipe and barrier coatings for high volume cosmetic and food industries, apply for required certificates, do customer pilots and create a licensing model. As a result of the project, the company will grow to annual revenues of €90 million within a few years.
By the end of the project we have successfully achieved all the foreseen objectives.
Namely, during the reporting period, we were able to finalize the development of material with improved stability towards water and alcohol-based products. A new barrier material, the Barrier C, was achieved.
Pilots were successfully completed in two areas, within the cosmetics industry and the food industry. While cosmetic industry product launches were postponed due to covid 19, then the food industry pilots provided two product launches already during the project. The first was with Fazer for hand-made confectionary in Sulapac Premium 200-ml jar. The second launch was with a Finnish food supplement company, Leader Foods. The launch comprised VIDA product family of five product.
These innovations resulted in two filed patent applications.
We design our materials to be beautiful and functional in all categories we enter while at the same time being a sustainable choice. Several content pieces are available in our web:
Demand creation has proven to be working and as a result we are getting more than 50 new leads each week.
The project has enabled us to complete Sulapac’s product portfolio. The developed materials, and packaging articles made thereof, are safe not only for dry substances, but now, cover the range from oil and wax-based products to water and alcohol-based food and cosmetics. The materials provide the required preservation of the package contents, in terms of chemical and food safety, as well as barrier properties and resistance to leakage, to guarantee long-term storage. The established product portfolio includes perfume bottle and cosmetics jar caps that are resistant to strict chemical and environmental conditions, packages for food and food supplements with demanding quality, safety, and premium appearance, and jar and tube materials compliant with EU food regulations, as well as single use items, such as cutlery and coffee cartridges.
The virtue of the material is that they are shapeable to thin-walled structures, which with the accompanying flexibility, facilitate the production of delicate structures for a plurality of applications. Still, with the considerable amount of wood, ranging from the standard 25 w-% (56 v-%) to up to 40 w-% (86 v-%) in the Sulapac Premium recipe, a cheap side stream from the industry, the cost of the material is affordable. The materials provide a plug-in solution with minor, or no changes, to the existing machinery in plastics production. As such, this is remarkable, but we were able to develop recipes also for flexible tube manufacturing. Together with the Barrier C material with superior barrier properties, these products represent a breakthrough in the food and cosmetics industry.
All raw materials are bio-based and sustainably sourced, and the materials, per se, comprise a low carbon footprint. We have shown in our compost test, as well as in anaerobic and marine degradation tests, that Sulapac materials are organically recyclable, and do not leave permanent microplastics behind. Also, we have shown that the materials are not ecotoxic and do not contain heavy metals (EN 13432). As such, they are safe for both people and planet. While providing a unique look and feel, the products are of outstanding usability, and by nature, designed to reduce plastic pollution.
During the project it was possible also to establish and improve the Quality Management System, the R&D and other processes, and streamline our way or working. Sulapac was granted the environmental management, ISO 14001, and the forest stewardship council (FSC) certificates. Various processes, including supplier approval, were identified, and visualized. The project provided the basis for implementation of effective quality measures for safe and effective launch, and delivery of materials and finished goods.
Simultaneously, we have been able to build a functional real-time customer management process throughout the pipeline: from contact to lead, and further to opportunity, and to customer. During the project both thought leadership creation (long-term positioning) and lead generation have raised to a totally new level. Hundreds of international articles per year and steady 50 incoming leads per weeks are a very good achievement.
In summary, the goals of the project were achieved, and during the two years, the project as supported Sulapac to gain the market position for future growth.
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