Blue Ocean Closures enters Swedish research project to replace metal jar lids with bio-based materials
18 Apr 2023 --- Sweden-based Blue Ocean Closures, Swed-jam and the Research Institutes of Sweden are partnering in a research project to replace metal lids with fiber-based alternatives. The project is funded by Vinnova’s BioInnovation program to research and develop packaging substitutes using bio-based materials.
Blue Ocean Closures says that for some product types, no alternatives to metal screw lids exist today. The project is based on the hypothesis that a concept for recyclable lids made of paper fibers would meet requirements and market needs of more environmentally sustainable solutions.
Swed-jam is a food producer that makes jam, juice, drinks and smoothies. “In our development, it is important to work closely with companies in other parts of the value chain to explore and learn together how fiber-based closures could work in an industrial setting,” says Isabel Malone, project manager at Blue Ocean Closures.
Fiber or metal?
Lars Sandberg, CEO at Blue Ocean Closures tells PackagingInsights that despite metal’s high recycling rates, “half of the lids used today come from new metal. As fiber has a 10-20 times lower carbon footprint, the savings are significant.”
To replace metal with a bio-based material, would mean a great impact in terms of decreased climate effects, potentially more than 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, he asserts.
Sandberg elaborates that this number reflects the high volumes of metal lids used in the world today. “Absolutely most [carbon dioxide] comes from material and production even if we also reduce the total weight somewhat.”
Meanwhile, Sherwin-Williams released a white paper outlining the European metal packaging industry and how it is predicted to grow as recycling requirements are introduced.
Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without losing its properties. “The metal can is critical to support a [environmentally] sustainable packaging supply chain in Europe and achieve circularity within the F&B, household and personal care industries,” said the company.
Although recycling systems differ from country to country, the process for recycling aluminum packaging is well established, asserted Sherwin-Williams.
Jams and juices
The technology development in this project is “really exciting,” says Swed-jam’s CEO Birgitta Björk. “It will be interesting to see what benefits can be achieved from an environmental, cost and market perspective.”
When asked about technical challenges when using fiber lids on products such as jams and juices, Sandberg says: “One of the challenges, dependent on filling lines, is that some of the existing handling, for example, lifting the lids to the capper, might be done using magnets. We would obviously need to use a different solution, for example a waterfall lift. Apart from that we are doing our best to offer a future full drop in solution, as we are able to do for plastic caps.”
BioInnovation program manager Per Edström comments: “BioInnovation funds projects that pave the way for a circular bioeconomy, and this project is well qualified by addressing a clear market need for bio-based replacements of metal lids with a potential to global market scale-up.”
Last year, Blue Ocean Closures obtained a second investment from co-owner Alpla Group to expand and accelerate the commercialization of its environmentally sustainable closure solutions.
Alpla further invested in Blue Ocean Closures to increase the possibilities of growing the Swedish start-up’s environmentally sustainable operations and activities in fully bio-based, biodegradable and recyclable caps and lids.
By Natalie Schwertheim
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.
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