Pitch your product: DS Smith is looking for fibre-based packaging of seaweed


He strongly believes in the potential of seaweed in the packaging industry. Jury member of the Seaweed Innovation Challenge, Thomas Ferge (Paper & Board Development Director) from the multinational packaging business, DS Smith plc, is looking for the next big thing in the packaging industry. From the use of seaweed-derived materials as for films in bio-based packaging, as a potential fibre source or fibre-based strength additives.

Why is DS Smith joining the Seaweed Innovation Challenge?

'It is a great opportunity to see what is happening in the seaweed space. We are continuously exploring the use of biomaterials in packaging, seaweed being one of the untapped areas for DS Smith. I personally believe seaweed has a lot of potential in packaging applications and we are curious about what bright minds may come up with in terms of packaging, and what could be the next big thing in the packaging industry.‘

Where do people know DS Smith from?

‘If you are working in the packaging world or you need packaging material, you will definitely know us. We are one of the biggest paper-based packaging producers with a global reach, active with in 34 countries with locations all over Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. In Europe we are the largest cardboard and paper recycler.’


How is this challenge interesting for DS Smith and their/your customers?

´We have an extensive Research and Development programme that is linked to the seaweed challenge. Seaweed is one of the materials we are exploring for use in biopolymers in order to reduce the dependency in for example films and laminates from fossil based resources.

On the other part, we are actively exploring the world of alternative, non-wood-based fibres. Although in DS Smith, almost 100 percent of the paper we produce is based on recycled fibre, we strive for a broader understanding of available raw materials in paper-making. One reason for this is that with ever increasing need for paper-based packaging, it is a must to optimise existing fibre sources as well as identify new sources, making use of materials that are not considered yet; although potentially abundantly available. Even if forests are sustainably managed, there is still a limit of available land and globally, deforestation is an issue. That’s why we are also looking at the ocean, were large amounts of seaweed could be grown.

Seaweed is an untapped area of materials that could potentially be used in fibre-based packaging for DS Smith‘

But we are also interested in any other idea of making use of seaweed in the production process, not only as fibre, but also as source for cellulose-based strength additives.

We know there are companies, start-ups and inventors out there, who have ideas, technologies - even if on small scale - and we hope to discover them in the Seaweed Innovation Challenge.’

How do you believe in the potential of seaweed?

'It‘s a fast growing material, that is already being farmed now and is going to be farmed more in the future. In some parts of the world, seaweed is considered a waste product. However, cultivating it, and in a responsible and environmentally conscious way, is not very developed yet, at least in terms industrial scalability. Depending on the target application, you need to identify the right species, you need to have the right process in place and you need the people with the ideas, dedication and vision to make it happen.

But, it seems to be very promising and a research field with lots of movement.‘

What can DS Smith offer the winners?

'If there is an interesting, inspiring idea, we can definitely offer several deep-dive brainstorming sessions to work out how we can bring this to life. DS Smith has a great international and diverse team with lots of scientists, engineers, packaging designers. We have facilities where lab work, testing and further design work can be done.

In addition, we have a significant reach in the industry. with broad customer-base in every industry from electronics and automotive into the variety of FMCG in non-food and food – from chocolate to dairy, so that means we are in regular contact with brand owners, retailers and so on.

I believe that if an idea is really good, it is new and innovative, it is truly sustainable and it can be further developed to scale, we could help to open doors to some of the big brands we work with.´

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