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Enzymes and wood biomolecules, a winning combo for sustainable packaging

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Enzymes and wood biomolecules, a winning combo for sustainable packaging
Copyright  euronews
By Julian GOMEZ

A biotechnology company hidden among the forests of southern Finland thinks trees can help sustainability in Europe to become deep-rooted.

Sustainable multi-purpose products

Researchers at Metgen Oy are mixing enzymes and biomolecules from wood and bark to replace raw oil-based materials. Some of these renewable biomaterials have already been developed and used in different solutions for the packaging and construction industries.

Toni Grönroos is the technology development director at the company. He says that their main application, so far, is a shield that improves paper strength and water resistance. But they are also working on resins for gluing plywood together and raw material to produce insulation materials for construction.

Biodegradable packaging

One particular solution aims to replace the petrochemical-based coating used in cardboard packaging. A complex process turns the formula developed by researchers into a coating for paper surfaces. These coated surfaces are then tested to check their strength and water resistance.

Liji Sobhana is an innovation manager at Metgen Oy. She explains that the main advantage of this product is that it's recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. "It replaces all the fossil-based chemistries, which now go to the landfills and are not biodegradable", she adds.

Researchers at Metgen Oy feel that their work is putting science to the use of a greener planet, to create a greener tomorrow.

Getting on to the market

The technology has just been named overall winner of the Innovation Radar Prize 2021, a prize supported by the European Commission as a way to help innovators get on to the market.

The biotech company currently employs some 30 people and according to its Chief Operating Officer, Matti Heikkilä, it is not short of projects. Their technology is even ready for industrialisation. "We have gone through technology development and engineering. We have come up with specific products with offtake.", he explains. The next step for them is to build plants, scale-up and get on the market.

The company estimates that its products could become a market reality in one to three years.