Water-soluble high cellulosic volume formulation development for recyclable thermoplastics in the paper supply chain: Polypaper.
The project was born from the need to have an eco-sustainable and recyclable material as an alternative to “non-recyclable plastics”.
Although paper has its own well-established recycling chain, it has some limitations due to its inherent characteristics, such as limited mechanical strength and poor versatility in thermoforming processes.
Polypaper was created to address this challenge: a thermoplastic material derived from the combination of poly(vinyl alcohol), a water-soluble polymer commonly used as an aggregate in the paper recycling process, with cellulose. This new material is composed of up to 51% cellulose and combines the qualities of plastic with those of paper, creating a synergy that adds to the
recyclability of cellulosic products the possibility of being formed by molding techniques typical of plastics, such as blowing film extrusion or hot melt, injection molding, and 3D printing.
Polypaper, thanks to its polymer matrix, offers superior mechanical properties than paper, greatly expanding the
possible applications of cellulose alone. The main objective is to replace currently more impacting or not recoverable materials in different applications, such as packaging and ballistics, or in areas where waste accidentally ends up in the environment.
For example, Polypaper could replace polystyrene foam used as filler and shock absorber in packaging. The latter presents unresolved problems related to its recycling, while the Polypaper could perform the same function and be disposed of in the paper recycling chain. Another possible application for Polypaper could be the replacement of traditional hangers used to hang clothes on shelves, offering multiple advantages both in terms of environmental sustainability and functionality. Because Polypaper is moldable, it would be possible to create a wide range of shapes and sizes, ensuring a customized and functional design to display products.
A significant advantage of Polypaper is its ability to prevent the formation of microplastics if it should ends up released into the environment. In fact, at least 50% of the material is easily biodegradable, and the remaining components are water-soluble and not ecotoxic, favoring a faster mineralization process than traditional plastics.
Polypaper paves the way for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly material, able to offer higher performance than paper and to effectively address the problems of pollution related to traditional plastics. This innovative solution could represent a breakthrough in the field of ecological materials, promoting the protection of the environment and natural resources.