The Paper Bottle Company: Finding bio-based alternatives to plastic films in paper bottle mission
18 Nov 2020 --- The Paper Bottle Company (Paboco) is developing a paper bottle prototype, with the next stop making it fully plastic free.
PackagingInsights speaks with Michael Michelsen, business development manager at Paboco, to learn more about the “stepwise” technical approach to creating the prototype.
Paboco is on a mission to create a fully bio-based and recyclable paper bottle, for partners such as Coca-Cola, as previously interviewed by PackagingInsights. However, durability without using non-renewable materials remains a crucial research obstacle.
The bottle must resist sogginess and dissolving when filled with liquids – one of the key innovation challenges of “such high interest to the packaging industry,” says Michelsen.
“The [end] solution will be a bio-based material that continues to ensure the recyclability of the paper bottle – a key factor in all Paboco’s efforts to create fully recyclable and bio-based packaging.”
Paper straws are cleverly designed for short-term use purposes, he notes, but the paper bottle will require more longevity.
Plastic pit stop
The project’s first step is to create a paper bottle prototype still including a plastic barrier film.
“Even as we are still on this journey of testing and undertaking together, we know all paper bottles need to have barriers to liquid, even in gaseous form, and oxygen. Unique to the paper bottle is that the strength of packaging comes from the paper itself, thereby limiting the strain put onto the barrier,” Michelsen details.
He further outlines changes made in the bottle itself affect the entire value chain: raw material handling, filling, closure systems and recycling.
Therefore, the focus is placed on building an efficient process for making paper bottles. Coca-Cola consequently tests the physical properties of paper bottles as a new packaging format, for example, its performance in filling lines and coolers.
“We also test qualitative aspects, such as how consumers would react to this type of packaging. All the knowledge gathered is fed back into the development process, so we progress toward the next iteration of the paper bottle concept,” says Michelsen.
The power of paper
If the research endeavor is struggling to substitute the plastic barrier film, why not leave it in? For the paper bottle to make its way from conception to commercialization, it will need to be fully recyclable and made from renewable materials.
“To us, the paper has two key aspects: the origin of the material and a quite interesting technical feature of paper,” elaborates Michelsen.
The Paboco bottles are made from FSC-certified paper. “Specifically, in working with our parent company BillerudKorsnäs, we know that each tree used is taken at the prime time of its age, when its net carbon uptake is at a turning point.”
“In its place, multiple new trees are planted and the FSC-ensured origin sources are renewed.” Also, Michelsen is “amazed” by the paper’s technical recyclability.
“An individual fiber of paper is actually mostly reminiscent of a shoestring – when it is brand new, it is strong and compact, which is when Paboco uses the paper. But the material itself can be recycled and used for other product types.”
Here, the “shoestring” structure starts to fray a bit, he says, but is still intact for multiple, continuous cycles of recycling. Therefore, paper material can have a life spanning numerous products.
The commercialization journey
Paboco is a joint venture between BillerudKorsnäs and Alpla. Alongside Coca-Cola Europe, other major companies joining the project include Carlsberg, L’Oréal and The Absolut Company.
The quest to develop a paper bottle has been in the making since 2018. Then as much as today, ensuring a fully bio-based and recyclable bottle remains top priority.
In late 2019, chemical technology company Avantium joined the Paper Bottle Project to provide a thin layer of polyethylene furanoate (PEF), which is plant-based and recyclable, giving the paper bottle high barrier properties.
Carlsberg tested the paper bottle for its alcoholic beverage portfolio with PEF, bringing the Paper Bottle Project one step closer to commercialization.
“Sustainable barriers for paper are an innovation challenge for the entire paper industry. We are on a good path to solving it for our paper bottles,” concludes Michelsen.
“This also requires new and scalable technology, so this is one of the main technical challenges we are working on in parallel to address the next iteration of the paper bottle.”
By Anni Schleicher
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.