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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Södra, James Cropper Unveil 100% Renewable, Biodegradable Alternative to Plastic

UK specialty paper and advanced materials manufacturer James Cropper PLC — which has developed breakthrough processes for recycling cocoa husk waste into paper and for recycling both the paper and plastic components of disposable coffee cups — has unveiled a sustainable alternative to plastic that the company says can carry the weight of an adult and be composted within 100 days. Developed in partnership with Södra, a Swedish forestry cooperative, DuraPulp is a bio-composite material that consists of specially selected pulp and a renewable biopolymer. After additional processing, the two components take on special properties, such as moisture resistance, strength and rigidity, and can be suitable for a variety of applications.

James Cropper says the potential of DuraPulp has brought the two innovators in pulp and technical fiber sustainability together to develop applications for the material and stimulate interest amongst other pioneering, environmentally conscious manufacturers to integrate it into packaging and product design. The company says its agreement with Södra, which will license the product, is exclusive to premium markets, aiming to establish DuraPulp’s viability in sectors such as luxury fashion, cosmetics, automotive and interior design.

DuraPulp can be heat-pressed to take on a rigid form, or used as a sheet where there is a requirement for high tearing and bend tolerance or air permeability. Unlike other composite products, DuraPulp is believed to be the only material available of its kind that is completely biodegradable and derived from 100 percent renewable resources.

“Sustainability has to be at the heart of manufacturing for the future, both for cost-effective production and the responsible protection of the environment for future generations,” said Patrick Willink, James Cropper’s Chief Technology Officer. “This is an ethos we know we share with Södra as both companies work hard to provide products that have a low carbon impact, going so far as to each generate our own electricity.

“This partnership is driven not only by the desire to help DuraPulp take on the global burden of non-degradable plastics, which are still widely used, but also to apply our key strengths of an unrivalled colour palette and international marketing expertise to a game-changing product.”

Initially a result of research by the Swedish scientific research institute, Innventia, DuraPulp’s adaptability has been explored by Södra in a series of design-led commissions, including a paper-thin, waterproof chair; molded packaging to cradle delicate objects in transit; and an electric desk lamp. Its biodegradability has been embraced as a feature, being made into a seed pod from which plants will grow after the fiber has degraded.

Willink added: “James Cropper and [sister company Technical Fibre Products]’s extensive technical abilities, clearly demonstrated by our track record in product development, and global market reach, will mean that we will be able to speed up the commercialisation of DuraPulp. Together we will be exploring new markets across the world to further establish how this unique product can provide a credible alternative to fossil-based materials.”

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