New biodegradable barrier coating for paper and cardboard packaging

14.11.2017

The new coating is based on the proprietary Glycell process developed by Leaf Resources, a global leader in converting plant biomass into fermentable sugars. The process utilizes two of Leaf’s core products, lignin and glycerol.

bAustralia-based Leaf Resources has secured a license for an innovative biodegradable coating product for the packaging market. 

The technology was licensed from QUT bluebox, the commercial arm of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and was developed as a long term QUT project that included Dr. Les Edye, Head of Research and Development while an Adjunct Professor at QUT. Leaf has signed an exclusive license contract with QUT bluebox for Malaysia, USA, Canada and Brazil which offers, said Leaf Managing Director Ken Richards, “a wonderful opportunity for Leaf Resources to grow and to continue working with QUT. We are fortunate to secure an innovative technology that delivers a much-needed product to the market, complements our core strategy so well and can deliver shorter-term cash flows to Leaf Resources.” 

In packaging markets there is a strong and growing consumer preference towards biodegradable materials because of environmental concerns. There has therefore been a concentrated focus in recent years on developing new barrier coating technology that is either renewably sourced, readily recyclable, biodegradable or all three. Literature and patent searches show that the biodegradable coating technology that Leaf has licensed, is the product closest to entering the market that fulfills these three requirements. Given this coating technique uses natural ingredients and produces a biodegradable product, it is not only suitable for the established corrugated board and mulching markets, but also a potential solution to the disposable coffee cup problem. 

This biodegradable coating is strategically advantageous for Leaf Resources. The company said it complements and enhances the economics of its Glycell process as it utilizes two of Leaf’s core products, lignin and glycerol. The license will enable Leaf to reposition lignin from the Glycell process as a high value bio-based, renewable lignin barrier coating, instead of burning it as fuel. In addition, the product will be sold as a coating into the paper market where Leaf has strong industry contacts, while entry into the market will be low cost through the terms of the license agreement.
Initially, Leaf’s strategy will be to buy lignin and glycerol and sell the coating product toc paper companies to coat paper and cardboard for the various market segments and supply the coating via toll manufacturing. Considerable work has been done on the availability of toll manufacturers in the USA in particular and they are readily available at competitive pricing. This strategy for both manufacturing and marketing will keep capital requirements and operating costs to a minimum. Contracted sales of product to licensees could provide short-term cash flow to Leaf Resources. In the medium term, development of the new product provides additional revenue for a commercial GlycellTM plant, providing valuable off take demand for lignin, which in previous modeling was simply burnt for power generation. Hence the development of this product improves the economics of a commercial Glycell plant, while taking advantage of the trend for more biodegradable packaging.

The biodegradable coating was developed to replace the traditional, petroleum based wax coatings and various plastic coatings used to waterproof the paper or cardboard, but opens up new possibilities for the mulching market, as well. Has Testing shown that barrier coating can replace black polyethylene as a mulch, with the additional benefits that it biodegrades to put beneficial carbon back in the soil.
As a biodegradable, recyclable and renewable sourced natural product it is a potential solution to the 487 billion cups a year disposed of worldwide each year –reportedly the second largest contributor to waste today.

http://www.leafresources.com.au