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Stora Enso invests in pilot plant for bio-based plastic packaging material

Global forest industry major Stora Enso Oyj has announced that it is investing EUR 9 million to build a pilot facility at its Langerbrugge Mill in Belgium for enabling the production of bio-based plastics as a barrier in transparent packaging. The pilot plant will convert plant-based sugars into furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), the renewable building block required to make polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a bio-based plastic, primarily for the food and beverage industry.

Stora Enso is investing EUR 9 million to build a pilot facility for the production of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from plant-based sugars at its Langerbrugge paper mill in Belgium (photo courtesy Stora Enso).

According to a statement, the investment in bio-based chemistry further strengthens Stora Enso’s opportunities to replace fossil-based materials with renewable and recyclable materials. The pilot plant will focus on developing a cost-competitive process for manufacturing furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from sugars.

FDCA is a key component of the bio-based barrier material PEF. In addition to its renewable nature, PEF’s attractive barrier, mechanical and thermal properties open up new packaging opportunities, such as small liquid containers for soft drinks, juices, and other beverages.

Bio-based materials are of rapidly growing interest in the packaging world as companies look for sustainable packaging materials with high performance. With this pilot, we continue to build on our long-term R&D work while targeting new markets with innovative, renewable materials that replace fossil-based materials. We believe that innovation does not happen in isolation. We are, therefore, looking forward to expanding our cooperation within the field of bio-based chemicals, said Markus Mannström, Executive Vice President of Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.

The new pilot project will be run by Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division, the aim of which to validate the chemical process and provide sample material to gain further insight into the market needs and product demand.

The pilot facility will initially use industrially available fructose to produce high-value chemicals and materials for application testing. In the future, the intention is to run the process on sugars extracted from wood and other non-food biomasses.

One of the largest paper mills in Europe, Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge Mill provides space and infrastructure for hosting the facility. Also, the Ghent area in Belgium is home to a large number of chemical production sites.

The design and engineering of the pilot facility have started, and construction will begin in the second half of 2020. The plant is estimated to be ready in the first quarter of 2021. Decisions about commercialisation will follow after evaluating the results of the pilot-scale production.

Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge Mill produces 540 000 tonnes of recycled newsprint and magazine papers annually exclusively based on paper for recycling. The pilot plant investment will not impact the mill’s paper production.

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