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Fresh product development ideas and valuable tips for using raw materials such as plastics, chemicals and lubricants.

Innovative sustainable materials for plastic packaging

April 26, 2023 | Telko Ltd

Look around, and you see at least a dozen things that are made of plastic – everything from plastic packaging to household items. Plastic enables us to live the kind of modern, safe, and secure lives we lead. However, the way we as people and in wider society (mis)use it has become a global challenge. For the last decade, Telko has accumulated know-how about plastic and how to replace it in the future with more sustainable options.


Finding substitutes for fossil-based plastics in packaging and other uses, improving waste collection and recycling practices and ultimately reducing plastic industry’s environmental impact coupled with financing and policy changes are needed to tackle the detrimental effects of plastic waste.  


For plastics that have become indispensable, options and substitutes that have the same or even better performance are constantly being explored. There is no silver bullet, but governments, businesses, and us as individuals all can do our share. Being one step closer to the end user and customer in the supply chain, Telko acts as a mediator and delivers insights about any changes or innovations happening in the market. 


Innovative options are already here 


During the last 10 years, we have seen a huge increase in knowledge on sustainable options for plastics. Smart Future™ Plastics is Telko’s way of supporting the development and implementation of sustainable plastic solutions. Recycled, bio-based, biodegradable, carbon-zero composites are just a few of the many exciting possibilities new plastic-like materials can offer.   


One of the success stories of cutting-edge materials is UPM Formi, an innovation from a leading forest-based bioindustry company UPM. It is a composite material made from side streams of the forest industry from sustainably grown forests. Warm and smooth to the touch, UPM Formi natural fibre composite material is made of up to 100% renewable sources. 


Mikko Lehtonen, Commercial Manager at UPM Biocomposites has been following the development of plastic materials for several decades. He sees immense potential in products like UPM Formi: “Research and development of sustainable plastic materials has been gaining momentum for the past 10 years and is only accelerating. One of the main drivers is the need to cut down CO2 emissions, and that is where materials from UPM can help. Forests are naturally carbon sinks, and as long as the wood-based products are not incinerated, they store carbon. In addition, the production of UPM Formi materials has a smaller carbon footprint than most of the conventional plastics.” 


The material is an ideal replacement for traditional, fossil-based plastic in many applications, such as packaging, furniture, electronics (with certain limitations), toys and food-related items. UPM Formi is lightweight but durable, making it a useful substitute for plastic packaging. In addition to protecting whatever is inside the package, it is also logistically convenient to use a material that adds less weight to the total mass transported.  


The longevity of products has become a very important factor when talking about replacing single-use plastics. Items such as plastic cutlery, cotton buds and straws, alongside fishing gear, represent 70% of all marine litter in the European Union. To battle this, The EU has set a target for recycling 50 percent of plastic packaging by 2025.  


UPM Formi EcoAce is enhancing sustainability even further than its predecessors. Lehtonen explains, that “Our EcoAce product line is made of tall-oil based polypropylene mixed with natural cellulose or wood fibers. It uses existing wood industry by-product streams, so no new trees need to be harvested to produce Formi materials.”  


UPM Formi materials are 100% recyclable in a closed loop recycling system, which UPM recommends whenever possible. Arranging more possibilities to reuse materials is integral part of reducing plastic waste. Incinerating them for energy should be only the last option. 



The best solutions require cooperation  


UPM is one of the most established partners of Telko. Continuous stream of knowledge and new ideas back and forth has characterized over a decade of cooperation. Telko can offer the buyers expert knowledge of the UPM products, while providing UPM thorough information on regional markets.  


According to Mikko Lehtonen one of the most valuable things a distributor can offer are customer contacts and understanding: “Telko has valuable customer contacts and detailed regional knowledge, which in turn benefits the principal.” 


As a long-term partner to UPM, Telko can promote a wide range of materials and offer the end customer everything they need within the same supply chain. The possibility to also deliver custom amounts is especially convenient for buyers trying out a new product or with seasonally changing material needs.  


Telko provides a service that goes far beyond material provision: we supplement a broad portfolio of sustainable plastic solutions with the necessary technical expertise to get the most out of every solution. We call this SmartFuture™ thinking. 


Want to know more about sustainable plastic solutions? Read our Smart Future™ with plastic white paper here. 

Telko Ltd

Telko Ltd

Telko is a leading distributor and solution provider for converters and brand owners looking to safeguard their business with future-proof plastics, chemicals or lubricant solutions. By using industry-leading expertise, strong partnerships and renowned service capabilities to dramatically improve our customers' production lead times, material efficiency, and financial and environmental performance.