Although plastic packaging accounts for close to 0.5% of Europe’s consumer CO2 footprint, Rani Plast is delivering its own sustainability strategy partly by providing carbon neutral products for advanced packaging solutions.
The company’s aim is to achieve carbon neutral production by 2035. As demand for more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and products increases, Rani Plast is integrating more bio-based raw materials and benefiting from improvements in recycling technology.
By combining fossil-based plastic raw materials with re-cycled and renewable plastic raw materials, derived from tall oil (from pine trees), sugar cane or biodiesel-based waste products, Rani Plast can customise film to suit customers’ requirements and at the same time reduce the CO2 impact.
“Through mixing these raw materials we can optimise the carbon footprint and the mechanical properties of the film,” said Sales Director Dennis Granqvist. Depending on a client’s requirements for packaging, raw materials can be tailored to meet performance demands.
Fossil-based plastic raw materials generate about 1.8kg of CO2 per kilograms whereas bio-based raw materials derived from sugar cane and tall oil typically have a negative CO2 measure. By mixing raw materials to produce a hybrid product, carbon neutrality can be achieved.
The emergence of tall oil as a raw material for polyethylene has attracted attention because it performs as well as fossil-based raw materials. “It is a by-product of paper pulp production and the manufacture of cellulose and as such does not compete with food production or require land use change,” said Rani Plast Product Development Director Mats Albäck. “Sugar cane, on the other hand, is grown specifically as a polyethylene raw material.”
The cost implication of using tall oil depends on the percentage of it used in a film. As Dennis Granqvist points out: “Plastic packaging’s part in the overall cost to the end user is relatively small and because of the environmental advantages, consumers might conclude that it’s a price worth paying.”
Albäck and Granqvist also described how technological advances in auto-sorting recycled plastic is improving the quality of mechanically recycled material. “We are also anticipating the commercial viability of chemical recycling which, when it achieved, will enable the use of recycled plastic in the food industry,” said Mats Alback.
More advanced films, such as silage coverings, which require more mechanical resistance and have to withstand a range of weather conditions, typically comprise 50% recycled material, while very high quality film for use in medical environments and in the food industry can currently only use virgin raw materials due to the impurities in recycled plastic. The advent of chemical recycling, as mentioned earlier, should change this.
Rani Plast closely monitors the technical development of new raw materials and the corresponding commercial evolution in clients’ businesses. As they both progress, Rani Plast’s goal of producing a wider selection of carbon neutral products is increasingly achievable.