The Micro and Nano Fibrillated Cellulose (M/NFC) packaging is made using 100% agriculture waste.
Packaging can use a mixture of up-cycled plant based M/NFC at various percentages with new cellulose or de-fibred waste material with production times relative to M/NFC quantities used.
The German-based firms said the biggest challenge was at the beginning as the idea seemed logistically impossible.
However, Zelfo Technology re-engineered its machine to process agricultural waste based on information from Upgrading.
It was only after getting a longer and different fibre and changing the setting of machinery, that it got positive results.
No additives or chemical processing
Eduardo Gordillo, managing director at Upgrading, told FoodProductionDaily the agriculture waste was converted from wheat straw because it was available.
However, almost all fibre based crop residue or waste sources are suitable for conversion using the Zelfo/Upgrading system.
“We no longer need additives or chemical processes because the fibres are self-binding,” he said.
“We don’t need extra fields and no animal bi-products are required. Our raw material is just there.
“The concept bypasses the need to use standard cellulose sources and focuses on any food source producers’ own residue or waste fibre.”
Upgrading and Zelfo Technology will install an R&D production plant near Hannover within the next three months.
Gordillo said beside the ecological and cost saving benefits, it transforms the relationship with customers.
“Our customers will also be our raw material suppliers,” he said.
“We can produce packaging for them using their own agriculture waste.
“The agriculture industry has the possibility to receive packaging for their products from us manufactured using agriculture residue/waste from their own products.”
Product possibilities include tomato trays for retail packaging made from the yearly agriculture waste from tomato plants, said Gordillo.
“Chocolate packaging can be made from the agricultural waste from the cacao trees,” he said.
“Or agricultural waste from the olive trees can be used to make olive oil bottles.
“Fully waterproof vessels will form part of the second wave of products and these are already being reviewed.”
The product range will focus around containers for fruit and vegetables at first, said Gordillo.
These will be offered with and without additional barrier and graphic surface treatments.
Working with the right companies
Gordillo said the packaging concept addresses sustainability and eco-friendly production.
“For us it is very important that we engage with businesses that have a substantial ecological impact and who wish to embrace sustainability,” he said.
“We believe that all kinds of packaging made from petroleum based plastics, processed energy or resource intensive cellulose should be replaced as soon as possible.”
The companies have started negotiations with customers in China and will start sales in Germany, said Gordillo.
“In Spain we already have a potential customer, who is interested in building a plant with us in Tunisia,” he said.
“We also have contacts in Columbia and India. Our strategy is to move global but act local with local partners.”