Scientists have learned how to make plastic from orange peel and beet leftovers

The new technology developed at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland makes it possible to use pectin-containing agricultural waste, such as citrus peels and sugar beet pulp, as raw materials for PEF-based bioplastics – polyethylene furanoates.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and other polyesters are widely used in food packaging, plastic bottles, and textiles. The annual production of PET products is estimated at 30 million tons. The technology, developed in Finland, allows the replacing PET-based plastics – polyethylene terephthalate. The carbon footprint of plastic bottles can be reduced by 50% by replacing the PET starting material with PEF (polyethylene furnace) polymers.

Moreover, the barrier properties of PEF plastics are better than that of polyethylene terephthalate. This means that food products will be stored longer. PEF is a fully recyclable and renewable high-quality plastic.

“Soon, you can buy orange juice in bottles made from orange peel. The new VTT technology provides a circular approach to using food waste to produce high-quality food packaging material and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ”says practice professor Holger Pöhler from VTT.

VTT technology has advantages in the production of bio-based PEF plastics. The process uses a stable intermediate to produce 2,5-furan dicarboxylic acid, one of the PEF monomers. Besides, the use of waste containing pectin opens up new opportunities for the circular economy of plastics.

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