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DS Smith Tests Alternative Fibers to Use in Sustainable Packaging

DS Smith
(Credit: DS Smith)

As part of its $140 million investment in research and development announced last year, DS Smith has been conducting trials that use more sustainable material for packaging and cardboard fibers.

The research comes amid a national DS Smith survey in which 59% of consumers say recycling instructions are hard to find, while 63% are more likely to purchase well-marked products, a sign of environmental concerns driving shopper preferences.

The company is testing the reuse abilities of alternative fibers for paper and cardboard, including daisies, straw, cocoa shells, miscanthus (grass), and seaweed, as part of its efforts to invest in sustainable resources and reduce waste.

These new materials could help the packaging industry conserve water and energy. Both straw and miscanthus require significantly less energy and water than bio-based alternatives like plastic when being manufactured into packaging.

Miscanthus can grow in poor-quality soils on fallow farmland, while generating as many as three crop yields a year. Straw is seen as the most promising alternative fiber for widespread use due to its ability to be used in a wide range of applications. Quick-growing daisies, although early in DS Smith’s research, also have shown signs of producing high-quality fibers.

DS Smith already has tested using seaweed fibers as a raw material in a range of packaging solutions such as cartons, paper wraps, and cardboard trays. The seaweed fibers demonstrated unique properties as a barrier coating, resulting in problem plastics and petroleum-based packaging used to protect many foodstuffs being replaced.

This research is part of DS Smith’s pledge to optimize fiber use for individual supply chains in 100% of its packaging solutions by 2025. By 2023, DS Smith hopes to manufacture 100% reusable or recyclable packaging.

DS Smith isn’t the only company looking to produce sustainable products from unique sources. Goodyear is developing a tire from a domestic source of natural rubber produced from dandelionsThe multiyear, multi-million dollar program is using a specific species of dandelion called Taraxacum kok-saghyz, also known as TK, and rubber produced from the plant will be used to make military aircraft tires. Goodyear is working in partnership with the US Department of Defense, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and BioMade to develop the rubber with Ohio-based Farmer Materials.

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