Scion is helping New Zealand punch above its weight
The Manufacturing and Bioproducts group of Scion is at the forefront of global research into bio-based alternatives to traditional fossil-fuel-based products, with packaging alternatives high on the list.
“This is not about trying to get rid of packaging,” says Elspeth MacRae, general manager of the group. “Packaging is vital. You couldn’t sell anything without it. For New Zealand, with our geographical isolation, it is even more important to protect our products, particularly for our export markets.”
MacRae says that in the last 5-10 years Scion has “upped the game,” working on lightweight biopolymer products, hybrid fibre-bioplastic products, bioadhesives, bioplastics and biofoams.
Much of the work is finding favour overseas where progress on waste management is more advanced. For example, Scion is currently working with a Finnish company on adapting a technology which makes a polymer from trees to produce plastic film, a product which could have wide packaging applications. Also biodegradable bioplastics, which are rare here due to the absence of any commercial composting plants. Hopefully this will change in New Zealand over time.
Scion’s most highly publicised product application in New Zealand is perhaps that of Zespri’s ‘spife’ – a cross between a spoon and a knife, specifically designed for eating a kiwifruit on the move. The original was made from standard plastic, but has been redesigned to be made from kiwifruit waste mixed with a bioplastic.
Scion also works with the Biopolymer Network Ltd, which has created bio alternatives to expanded polystyrene packaging materials, much of which ends up in landfill.
Wood force is also one of the latest developments, which uses wood fibre and bio plastics and can be used in a range of products (pallets, boxes, casings, cars, appliances). Tests have shown this material can be recycled six times without loss of performance.