This past year, Wipak has partnered with Arla Foods, Paulig and VTT to test Thermocell – a plastic film made of cellulose and fatty acids – in the production of food packaging. The bio-based material is made from renewable components and is an alternative to oil or fossil-based plastic. Sharing our innovative development expertise in durable materials, and testing and verifying the suitability of Thermocell for food applications, we have been helping to accelerate the material’s entry to the market.
We’ve since advanced to the testing phase of industrial production. Jarmo Ropponen, research team leader at VTT shares, “Our goal is to show that Thermocell film can be produced on an industrial scale using the same equipment that is used for traditional plastic films, with features that meet the needs of the food industry. For this reason, Arla Foods, Paulig, and Wipak are also taking part in the research”.
Existing bio-based materials often require additional substances and lack an important feature: thermoplasticity. The thermoplasticity of Thermocell film means it is suitable for injection molding, coating paper and paperboard, and 3D printing. It’s a thin, durable film that protects foods safely from contamination or water vapour – many of the film features already meet the requirements of the food industry. Further testing with advanced production machinery is in progress to get the film even thinner and orient it to improve its strength and protective qualities.
Once the research group has refined Thermocell to suit customer needs, recyclability will be the focus. Its recyclability has been proven to be nearly equal to common thermoplastics, but still requires separate sorting. The aim is for the raw material to suit existing waste collection and recycling systems.