Cellulose nanofibre films as a substitute for plastic packaging: A comparative environmental life cycle assessment

Humayun Nadeem, Philippe Nimmegeers, Warren Batchelor, Pieter Billen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Accumulation of synthetic food packaging in the natural environment has increased considerably in last few decades, posing serious concerns to human and aquatic life. Hence, substituting synthetic packaging with biobased packaging is one viable option. Cellulose nanofibres can easily be transformed into films, which could be a suitable alternative for petroleum-derived packaging. However, production of these films consumes a significant amount of energy as compared with the synthetic packaging. The main contributors for this high energy consumption are associated with the treatment of pulp, production of fibres and drying of films. This study analyzes the environmental impacts (in terms of energy and water) of spray deposited cellulose nanofibre films and its key drivers through an attributional cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment. Different scenarios were formulated and studied in terms of waste feedstock choice, solid content, forming composite of cellulose nanofibres, and location (Australia, China, Germany, Great Britain and United States of America). The results indicate that the environmental impacts of spray deposited cellulose nanofibre films based on a baseline scenario for a large-scale production were still higher as compared with petroleum-based synthetic packaging. However, establishing a recommended scenario from the studied scenarios could lower the environmental impacts significantly (two to five times) in comparison to synthetic food packaging. This life cycle assessment model has the potential to support the reduction of the environmental impact of the studied green chemistry option and to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable packaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalFood and Bioproducts Processing
Volume145
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Keywords

  • Cellulose nanofiber films
  • Large-scale production
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Spray deposition
  • Synthetic packaging

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