DS Smith is exploring the possibilities of using seaweed as an alternative fiber source to wood across its packaging network. Following initial tests, the company is also investigating the potential role of seaweed as a barrier coating.
Packaging producer DS Smith is looking to explore whether seaweed fiber can be used as a raw material for paper and packaging products. The company said DS Smith could be the first in the industry to use seaweed across its packaging network as an alternative fiber source to wood. After initial testing, the company is also exploring the potential role of seaweed as a barrier coating used to protect many food products.
Discussions are currently underway with several biotechnology companies to explore the potential use of seaweed fiber in a range of packaging products, including cartons, paper packaging and paper trays. The focus is on the strength of the material as well as its, resilience, recyclability, scalability – and, of course, cost. “Seaweed could have multiple uses with a low ecological footprint that is easily recyclable and naturally biodegradable,” said Giancarlo Maroto, managing director, paper, forestry and recycling for DS Smith North America.
In search of alternatives
Given its many uses, seaweed is an emerging market in the industry, DS Smith points out. The European seaweed industry alone is projected to be worth nearly $11 billion by 2030. The seaweed project is part of a five-year DS Smith research and development program worth more than $140 million announced in early 2021. The program will also investigate the potential use of natural fibers such as straw, hemp, miscanthus and cotton. More unusual sources are also being tested, including the daisy-flowered cup plant and agricultural waste such as cocoa shells or bagasse – the pulp fiber left over after sugar cane is processed.