DS Smith recently announced its planned investment in seaweed-based packaging.
The multi-national packaging firm is positing seaweed as an alternative fibre source for its paper and packaging products. The company intends to research the barrier properties of seaweed, with an eye towards replacing the likes of plastic wraps for fresh produce.
DS Smith’s new scheme, which marks an industry first for the company, is part of its £140 million circular economy R&D project that was announced earlier this year.
Seaweed is considered a standout alternative to plastic in packaging applications.
Seeing as at is cultivated in marine environments, carbon emissions during production do not pose an issue. The organic material does not require fertilisers either. Beyond being both biodegradable and home compostable, that is, able to break down into its constituent parts both in an industrial setting as well as a home environment, it also serves as a natural carbon capture system. 40 tons of seaweed is capable of absorbing 20,7 tons of carbon emissions.
As such, seaweed is set to become a sustainable material of choice in the future for packaging applications. Being both edible as well as dissolvable in water (beneficial in the case of packaged tea), seaweed can also extend the shelf life of fresh produce far better than plastic, which may serve to combat the global food waste crisis.
DS Smith is also researching the potential of other natural fibres such as straw, hemp, cotton, bagasse (pulpy residue left over after the extraction of sugarcane juice) and cocoa shells for packaging purposes within the remits of its five-year R&D project.
The company intends to produce 100% reusable of recyclable packaging by 2030.