Tree-free paper

Packaging Professional magazine
8 May 2008
TerraSkin tree-free paper

Winner of an award from the Packaging Association of Canada on 22 April, TerraSkin tree-free paper for bags, wrapping and luxury boxes is making waves.

American personal care products brand Burt’s Bees scooped the Silver Award for International Raw Material in Branded Packaging for its soap bars packed in TerraSkin wrappers with improved barrier properties preventing odour and colour loss.

Manufactured by Design & Source Productions Inc, based in New York, USA, TerraSkin is made from 75% calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and 25% non-toxic high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin. Ninety per cent of its content diverts construction, plastic bottle and carrier bag waste from landfill. The material is water resistant, does not require laminating, and has a tensile and tearing strength ratio similar to regular paper – 1:1 and 2:1, respectively.

UK and European distributor Wrapology, a London-based producer of luxury retail packaging, is keen to make a similar impact with the material.

Commercial Director Annika Bosanquet says, ‘Most of our luxury retail and beauty brands are environmentally aware. [But they] demand a high quality white board on which graphics and logos can be printed with sharp edges and excellent colour. Uncoated recycled papers cannot compete with glossier, coated virgin-fibre papers. We looked for new materials and were introduced to TerraSkin. It is relevant at a time when there is a case to eliminate the use of trees in papermaking’.

Wrapology has conducted extensive testing on the print, glue and packaging capabilities of the material over the past two years.

Bosanquet explains that, as the material is produced in a similar way to thermally processed plastic sheets, it consumes no water during manufacture. About 300l of water is used to make one kilogramme of paper from tree pulp.

Conventional synthetic papers are, meanwhile, produced from 80% PE and 20% CaCO3. Increased application of CaCO3 in TerraSkin adds to the paper’s opacity and brightness, and reduces drying time through low absorption of inks, using 25% less ink. Furthermore, the mineral’s natural whiteness eliminates the need for chlorine bleaching.

However, to close the loop, further research is required. Wrapology has been in discussions with local councils and waste management companies. So far, it seems, when added to the traditional white paper recycling stream in small quantities, the fibre-less content does not contaminate the process. The company also claims that TerraSkin can be added to a plastics recycling stream in large quantities, converting the resin into plastic goods.

Waste management, nevertheless, also boils down to perception. ‘How do the retailers, councils, waste sorters and consumers perceive the material? Will they accept that a paper bag can go in the plastics stream?’ asks Bosanquet.

The company is in talks with a major retailer about employing TerraSkin in its products and collecting the waste from consumers themselves for mass recycling.

It is also exploring incineration for energy, as TerraSkin is toxin-free and has a high calorific content.


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