VTT has developed new technology to use pectin-containing agricultural waste, such as citrus peel and sugar beet pulp, as a raw material for PEF (polyethylene furanoate), a biobased alternative to fossil PET (polyethylene terephthalate).
PET and other polyesters are widely used in food packaging, plastic bottles and textiles. Annual production is estimated at 30 million tons. Replacing fossil-based PET with plant-based PEF polymers can reduce the carbon footprint of the products by 50%. In addition, the barrier properties of PEF plastics are better, which means that the food products have a longer shelf life. PEF is a fully recyclable and renewable high-quality plastic.
VTT has patented the technology and the research was published in the scientific journal Green Chemistry on December 7, 2020. The technology uses pectin-containing raw materials to produce FDCA (furan dicarboxylic acid), one of the monomers of PEF. In the Netherlands Avantium has developed a process for the production of FDCA based on (residual) wood.
The scientific article can be downloaded from the website of the Journal of Green Chemistry.