BRUSSELS, Belgium,Fastmarkets RISI –Stora Enso is investing EUR 9 million ($9.9 million) to build a pilot facility at Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge mill in Belgium designed to enable the production of bio-based plastics as a barrier in transparent packaging.

The pilot plant will convert plant-based sugars into the renewable building block required to make PEF, a bio-based plastic, mainly targeting the food and beverage industry.

The investment in bio-based chemistry further strengthens Stora Enso’s opportunities to replace fossil-based materials with renewable and recyclable materials. The pilot plant will focus on developing a cost-competitive process for manufacturing furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from sugars.

FDCA is a key component of the bio-based barrier material polyethylene furanoate (PEF). In addition to its renewable nature, PEF’s attractive barrier, mechanical and thermal properties open up new packaging opportunities, such as small liquid containers for soft drinks, juices and other beverages.

“Bio-based materials are of rapidly growing interest in the packaging world as companies look for sustainable packaging materials with high performance,” said Markus Mannström, executive vice president of Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division.

The project will be run by Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division and the Langerbrugge mill will provide the space and infrastructure for hosting the facility.

Design and engineering of the facility have started, and construction will begin in the second half of 2020. The plant is estimated to be ready in the first quarter of 2021. Decisions about commercialization will follow after evaluating the results of the pilot-scale production.

Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge mill is one of the largest paper mills in Europe, producing 540,000 tonnes/yr of recycled newsprint and magazine papers. Production is exclusively based on paper for recycling.