Premium Beauty News - What is the philosophy behind Sulapac’s alternative materials?
Suvi Haimi - We founded Sulapac in 2016 with the aim to tackle plastic pollution and fight against climate change. The idea was to develop materials with the advantages of plastics without the drawbacks.
The design philosophy of Sulapac is to mimic nature: to create a bio-based material that can replace conventional plastics but that can be digested by naturally occurring microorganisms and break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass, leaving no traces behind… similarly to a piece of wood.
Based on this philosophy, we have developed a series of materials made from wood and plant-based binders for applications in four market areas: straws, packaging for cosmetics, packaging for nutraceutics (supplements), and cutlery (forks and knives).
Premium Beauty News - What types of materials are available?
Suvi Haimi - As far as cosmetics and supplements are concerned, we currently offer six grades with various properties and bio-based content, including a barrier material for water-based emulsions.
For our first grades it was necessary to have specific moulds, this why we developed more universal solutions. Various aesthetics and colours are also available.
Premium Beauty News - But you can also develop tailor-made solutions, as you did for Chanel?
Suvi Haimi - Indeed, our core expertise is to create and test new recipes according to the needs of the customers.
Chanel needed a customized creation because they had very specific aesthetic criteria and they wanted to add camellia seed shells in the material used to create their biobased jar lids. We faced specific challenges because of the hydrophilic properties of the camellia seed shells.
It took more than 40 trials before we were able to find the right material recipe. But it was fascinating to combine by-products like camellia seed shells and FSC certified wood chips to create a unique high-end packaging material. Now, we have proficiency in also utilizing unusual side streams without compromising the functionality of the final product. It helps us to reduce the environmental footprint of packaging even further.
This achievement is the result of years of collaboration with the Chanel innovation team, which also led to the creation of bio-sourced perfume caps for ‘Les Eaux de Chanel’ collection.
We tested various recipes for their aesthetic results but also for the result on the machines.
Premium Beauty News - Today you also offer solutions for water-based formulas. What are the limits of the Sulapac materials?
Suvi Haimi - The creation of a barrier bio-based material for water-based formulations was a great achievement that allowed to widen the span of products we can pack with Sulapac materials. Tests have even demonstrated better oxygen barrier properties with our material than with conventional plastics!
However there are still limitations. To date we do not have any bottles or tubes, we are investigating these opportunities but at the moment our solutions focus on jars, lids and caps.
Premium Beauty News - What is your vision of the future of beauty packaging?
Suvi Haimi - We now have robust solutions to tackle plastic pollution and climate change linked to packaging.
While plastic production is expected to continue to grow globally, we offer the possibility to maximize the use of recycled and plant-based biopolymers that have the same advantages of conventional plastics without their drawbacks.
We are aiming to change the whole packaging industry in the future with the aim to solve the problems that conventional plastic pose! Our solution differs from other bioplastics such as PLA, because our material biodegrades fully in nature and not only in industrial composting condition. Also, we do not use any harmful or toxic additives that are many times used with bioplastics. We are very strict in the use of materials that mimic natural substances.
Our material is recyclable, both mechanically and chemically, in the same streams as other bio-polymers. However, while the technology is available, infrastructures are lacking in most countries. We consider the rise of chemical recycling around the world will improve the situation. Furthermore, unlike other plastics, in the event our material would leak into nature, it would slowly degrade in nothing else than carbon dioxide, biomass, and water, and would never create toxic load nor permanent microplastics.
We are currently building a consortium in Finland, in partnership with recycling infrastructures, to create a loop accepting our material that can be effective recycled.
We think we have the potential to change the packaging industry and the various sectors where plastics are used! We’re still a small size player and have to grow to build up a reputation on the market and reach the critical mass to participate in global launches. Global brands such as Chanel are leading the path and helping us to change things.