ReMatCh: Advancing circularity of fiber and polymer-coated barrier material through collaboration

Image Source: Stora Enso

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Collaboration both within and outside of the packaging value chain – comprised of material suppliers, packaging producers, brand owners, and retailers – plays a central role in driving sustainability progress.

This sharing of ideas and competencies leads to tangling benefits including new material development, innovative business models, improved recycling, and others. To this end, Stora Enso recently joined a collaboration ecosystem of leading value chain players and research institutes to solve key packaging circularity challenges with funding from Business Finland. Stora Enso has launched its program Recycled Material Challenge (ReMatCh) as a part of the larger collaborative platform with Business Finland, focused on a core mission to improve the circularity of polymer (i.e., plastic) barrier-coated board materials. A complex challenge to solve, this development work benefits from sharing a wide range of expertise; through this program and network, we are mutually driving the discovery of solutions for several steps along the value chain to enhance the circularity of fiber and the polymer-coated barrier material for packaging materials.

Oliver Kuhn, Head of the Circular Packaging Hub at Stora Enso, remarked on the significance of these projects: “The work is creating a toolbox for efficient recycling of fiber and polymer-coated barrier material. ReMatCh can enable us to achieve improved material cascading and make better decisions about commercial application.” Kuhn added, “Ultimately, ReMatCh allows to make efficient use of recycled materials in the value chain while simultaneously increasing the share of renewable and sustainable material in our products.”

The latest in a series of joint efforts toward circularity progress

Stora Enso is no stranger to circularity partnerships. Over several years, we have developed greater competence in setting up industrial scale recycling programs of polymer barrier-coated board materials through several collaborations. For example, with Huhtamaki through The Cup Collective program, and the new post-consumer beverage carton recycling line established with Tetra Pak at our Ostroleka, Poland site, which also includes a solution to recycle the polymer barrier into new products. We are also active in industry alliances such as 4evergreen.

With ReMatCh, the primary objectives are to:
• Develop the separation of polymer from the fiber in polymer barrier-coated materials, and to optimize both streams for effective material recovery and recycling  
• Research feeding separated polymers into mechanical and chemical recycling processes for reuse by Stora Enso in food packaging materials
• Research new promising alternatives for classified recycled fibers in the most valuable end-uses, e.g., textiles and other future applications

Connecting to the greater partnership ecosystem

As a component of a greater ecosystem, ReMatCh forms a direct link with its partners along the value chain and is supported by Business Finland. ReMatCh supports, and is supported by, research companies, institutes, and universities.

During the latter part of the project, we will use and test recycled polymers in an extrusion coating process of paper board, and through further 3D packaging converting. 

The future of ReMatCh

The project began in early 2023 and will continue through the end of 2025. A budget of 5 million EUR has been allocated for the ReMatCh project with greater than 40% directed toward external research and development, e.g., universities and research institutes.

Part of the global bioeconomy, Stora Enso is a leading provider of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials and wooden construction, and one of the largest private forest owners in the world. We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow. Stora Enso has approximately 21,000 employees and our sales in 2022 were EUR 11.7 billion. Stora Enso shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy (STEAV, STERV) and Nasdaq Stockholm AB (STE A, STE R). In addition, the shares are traded in the USA as ADRs and Ordinary Shares (SEOAY, SEOFF, SEOJF).

Source: Stora Enso