In a significant move towards sustainable innovation, a project named SuperBark has secured €4.5m in funding from the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking. The four-year project, which commenced on 1 September 2023, focuses on studying the natural components of softwood bark in order to develop eco-friendly adhesives and coatings for packaging paper and other products. This venture is not just a triumph for environmental science, but also a potential game-changer for the packaging industry.
The SuperBark project, coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is a collaborative effort involving an interdisciplinary consortium of 12 partners from eight different countries. The aim is to develop, test, and validate adhesives and coatings with a biobased content of over 95%, using a novel alkaline fractionation technology to extract polyphenols from tree bark, as well as cellulose nanofibrils converted from cellulose-rich bark residues. This revolutionary solution could replace the harmful, fossil-based chemicals and polymer solutions currently used in the packaging sectors and consumer products, marking a significant stride towards sustainable practices.
SuperBark: The Future of Sustainable Adhesives and Coatings
A new research initiative, known as SuperBark, has received a €4.5m grant from the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking. The project aims to investigate the constituents of softwood bark to develop novel adhesives and coatings, targeting applications in packaging paper and other areas.
A Global Effort
The SuperBark initiative, which began on 1 September 2023 and is scheduled to conclude in August 2027, is a four-year project. Coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the project boasts a multi-disciplinary consortium of 12 partners hailing from eight countries.
At the heart of the SuperBark project is the objective to create safe and sustainable adhesives and coatings from pine and spruce bark. The project team aims to develop, test, and validate adhesives and coatings with over 95% bio-based content. This involves the innovative use of a new alkaline fractionation technology to extract polyphenols from tree bark, alongside cellulose nanofibrils converted from cellulose-rich bark residues. The developed solution aims to replace the current fossil-based, hazardous chemicals and polymer solutions that are prevalent in the packaging sectors and consumer products.
Health and Environmental Impact
“SuperBark aims to eliminate consumer exposure to formaldehyde-based resins and per- and polyfluorinated substances used in coatings," says Marc Borrega, VTT senior scientist and project manager. The team is guided by ‘safe-by-design’ principles and will leverage digital technologies to speed up the development of these products, with the ultimate goal of creating a positive, long-lasting impact on human health and the environment.
The SuperBark partners will evaluate the safety, sustainability, technical, and economic performance of the developed adhesives and coatings. Following this assessment, the team plans to kickstart research and development activities that will pave the way for the commercialization of the processes and products.
The SuperBark project is an exciting step forward in the pursuit of sustainable packaging solutions. By focusing on bio-based adhesives and coatings, the project not only presents an opportunity to reduce reliance on hazardous, fossil-based products, but also opens up the possibilities of harnessing the natural properties of softwood bark. It provides a glimpse into the future where packaging is not just about protection and marketing, but also about environmental responsibility and consumer safety.