This bio-based material with a luxurious feel can substitute hard plastics in beauty packaging
”It gives cosmetic brands, even the ones with the highest quality standards, the opportunity to replace conventional plastic with a sustainable, bio-based alternative in various applications,” says Suvi Haimi, co-founder and CEO of Sulapac.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
April 12, 2023
Currently, biodegradables altogether account for more than 51 per cent — over 1.1 million tonnes — of the global bioplastics production capacities. The production of biodegradable plastics is expected to increase to over 3.5 million in 2027. With a growing number of materials, applications, and products, the number of manufacturers, converters, and end-users also increases steadily, according to Suvi Haimi.
— Significant financial investments have been made into production and marketing, she says.
Sulapac Ltd is an award-winning material innovation company with a mission to get rid of plastic waste.
— We help companies worldwide to replace conventional plastics with sustainable bio-based and biodegradable materials without compromising functionality or aesthetics. Sulapac is the only company in this field that can meet the standards of the most demanding luxury brands. The rapidly growing plastic production and the escalating amount of plastic waste that follows impose a fundamental threat to our planet – and human health. It calls for immediate solutions, which is why we exist, and are scaling up. Our materials are safe for people and the planet: they leave no permanent microplastics or toxic load behind while being recyclable and fully functional. They can be used with existing plastic converting machinery making the switch from conventional plastic to ours easy and resource-efficient.
The company just launched two versions of a new material, Sulapac Luxe.
— It’s made of sustainably sourced bio-based and biodegradable biopolymers and wood flour and is ideal for fragrance bottle caps, lids, and cosmetic jars. We’ve also launched Sulapac Luxe Flex, which comes without the wood component. As the name indicates, it is a more flexible and ductile edition, ideal not only for caps and lids but also for compact powder boxes.
What’s so special about them?
— Previously, there hasn’t been a truly sustainable material for the aforementioned applications that would have all the required mechanical and organoleptic characteristics and the desired quality that many high-end brands are after, says Haimi — so we would dare to say that Sulapac Luxe is a game changer. The materials have been through an extensive development process to ensure they fulfil the quality standards set by the most demanding luxury brands. Sulapac Luxe and Luxe Flex are not only recyclable but like all our materials, they can also be made with recycled content — another feature important for many premium brands. Both of them are made of industrially compostable, safe raw materials that are safe for people and the planet and no permanent microplastic or toxic load is left behind during the use phase or at the end of life. They’re allowing brands to move towards a renewable future, without compromising functionality or aesthetics.
According to Haimi, the two new materials complement Sulapac’s existing portfolio, which already has material for replacing thermosets, including bakelite, as well as alternatives to PP, PE, and PS. Unlike in most of the company’s materials, there’s no visible wood in Sulapac Luxe, and, as mentioned, no wood at all in Sulapac Luxe Flex.
— With these materials, you can create a glossy, smooth surface without any varnish or alternatively, an even matt finish. Sulapac Luxe Flex has advanced flexibility properties with a flexural strain of 10%. Also, the melt flow index in both materials is higher compared to other materials in our current portfolio. Luxe materials are developed to replace hard plastics such as ABS and they are shown to perform excellently in fragrance bottle caps and lids according to the premium brands’ requirements. We’ve seen great interest both among our existing and new customers and the materials have already passed the extremely rigorous testing protocols by a few large international cosmetic brands. As much as we’d like to share some customer news, we can’t just quite yet — but hopefully soon. We also have another exciting material launch coming later this year, which is something very different compared to our other portfolio materials.
What was the most challenging part when creating it? And what did you learn?
— Especially luxury brands have very specific requirements in terms of the look and feel of the materials used in their packaging. This is understandable, as the packaging is such an important element of the customer experience. Moreover, the material needs to perform as well as conventional plastic when it comes to functionality and processability. These materials meet all these aspects and give cosmetic brands, even the ones with the highest quality standards, the opportunity to replace conventional plastic with a sustainable, bio-based alternative in various applications. We have learned that because of the often very specific needs and different preferences of the customers, there is indeed room for both of the Luxe editions.
Lastly, how is your industry doing right now?
— Both the legislative development and companies’ internal sustainability targets, together with the increasing general understanding of the negative environmental impacts of conventional plastics, are pushing the change towards more sustainable options, Haimi shares. Despite — or, perhaps, because of — the uncertainties in the macroeconomic and political environment, brands are, overall, continuing to invest in innovations that help them to reduce their environmental footprint and reduce their dependency on fossil-based raw materials.