Developing a low cost approach to producing sustainable packaging
Single-use plastics offer consumers incredible convenience and portability. However, they also drown landfills in waste, leach chemicals into land and waterways and find their way into the world’s oceans. PulPac, a Swedish start-up, has developed a production method that can replace single use plastic at a lower cost. The fast production makes the method cost effective and the material, generic pulp from cellulose, makes it sustainable. We helped PulPac commercialise its IP for fast results.
Sustainability has moved from a niche movement to big business. The rise of brands like Patagonia, Toms and REI has proven the worth of values-based business. And regulators worldwide are pushing companies to reduce waste and increase recycling, an imperative that has been challenged by China and Malaysia’s ban on importing plastic waste for recycling. It’s clear that single-use plastics, which include shopping bags, coffee cup lids, utensils, soda and water bottles, straws and hangars, are ripe for reinvention.
“Companies are being pushed by regulators and consumers to become sustainable, and they are rising to the challenge,” says Wil Schoenmakers, PA’s Global Head of Consumer Products & Retail. “They have a limited amount of time to change business processes, trial new products and implement them into their global supply chains.
PulPac was founded by packaging consultants Linus and Ove Larsson who wanted to develop a sustainable alternative to plastics. They knew that paper-based food packaging was recyclable, but current technologies wouldn’t create the sturdy, 3D shapes they needed. Hit by a flash of inspiration, the team used an isostatic high-pressure press to shape paper pulp into a strong material that could substitute plastic. Equally importantly, PulPac’s process uses less energy and is lower cost than current wet-pulp solutions available on the market.
“There is a significant market opportunity right now for start-ups in the sustainability space,” says Linus Larsson, CEO of PulPac. “PulPac has innovative materials but needed a partner like PA who could help us move fast, get our products in front of global brands and scale into mass production.”
“We were fortunate to get a great idea and be able to patent it,” says Ove Larsson, Chief Technical Officer. “However, we had a dilemma. We had the IP and decided to offer PulPac on a license basis, but we lacked resources to industrialize the technology and meet the huge demand of application development. PA has provided us with a turnkey platform to take our products to market.”
“Start-ups have small teams and limited budgets,” says Phil Fawcus, PA product design and engineering expert. “We take an agile approach to innovation, tackling the biggest problem first and creating rapid value. Our scientists are in one room and can literally change their focus day by day as needed to meet our client’s needs.” With PulPac, that meant identifying and vetting high-value applications and developing the functionality of the material. For example, food containers need specific barrier properties, whereas cups need water repellence.
Perhaps, just as importantly, we’re providing a full suite of other services under one roof, including business case development, product design, process and machine engineering, and manufacturing. We are helping build the market for PulPac and have introduced the company’s leaders and materials to global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands. That enables PulPac to maximise its investment dollars by moving swiftly to product trials and securing significant new business opportunities. PulPac is implementing three production machines by the end of 2019.
Our vision is to become a market leader in pulp packaging, and we’re excited to take that journey with PA’s help (...) PA is bringing the technical expertise, market knowhow and defined innovation processes that will help us accelerate our development globally.
CEO of PulPac