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Creating bottles from wood pulp

Scott Winston, CEO, Pulpex Ltd.

“Our ambition is to displace around 2 billion plastic and glass bottles each year by 2028, removing approximately 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum.”

Pulpex has developed an innovative process to replace glass and plastic bottles with recyclable, single-mould fibre bottles made from sustainably sourced wood pulp that degrades readily in the natural environment.

Manufacturing process of the Pulpex fibre bottle final product.
Manufacturing process of the Pulpex fibre bottle final product.

Having started out as an R&D collaboration between Diageo and Pilot Lite, Pulpex launched in 2020 with the aim of delivering sustainability through renewable packaging. Pulpex quickly built up a team of corporate and sustainability partners to offer a commercially credible replacement for plastic and glass packaging.

The multi-patented process creates bottles from accredited and certified feedstocks using wood fibre pulp from responsibly managed forests. The fibres are used to make a dilute slurry which fills a bottle mould, before the water is extracted to leave the initial shell of the bottle. Once dry and moulded to the desired shape, a chemical coating is applied to the bottles which provides an enhanced barrier to the liquids and powders that they will eventually contain. At the end of use, the bottles can be recycled via existing paper and card waste streams.

Traditional fibre moulding methods were unsuitable for making bottles as they cannot produce a singlepiece end result. Significant advances in mechanical engineering, fluid dynamics and additive manufacturing were required to overcome this challenge. Pulpex now creates the bespoke moulds needed to deposit liquid slurries of fibres in such a way as to allow scalable production of single-mould fibre bottles with uniquely customisable sizes, shapes and branding.

Proprietary, specialised coatings are sprayed inside every bottle. The formula varies depending on the intended contents, but currently gives each bottle a 12 to 18-month shelf life by controlling its moisture and oxygen holding properties. As a final production step, the bottles are given an optional exterior coating before being sent to the manufacturer to be filled.

The production of sustainable, wood-pulp bottles reduces global reliance on glass and single-use plastics, ultimately delivering a significantly lower carbon footprint.

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