Brazilian startup develops pulp-based alternative for plastic trays

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Brazilian startup develops pulp-based alternative for plastic trays

May 28, 2019 - 17:10
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SAO PAULO, May 28, 2019 (PPI Latin America) -A pulp-based alternative is helping Brazil's biggest supermarket chain to reduce the use of plastic and styrofoam trays. A solution developed by startup Tamoios Tecnologia is going to reach the shelves as a substitute for plastic trays that hold fruits and vegetables in stores from Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a retail giant that owns over a thousand stores in Brazil.

The production is based on the method of molded pulp, the same material used in egg cartons. Tamoios currently has production capacity of 10 tonnes/month and expects it to grow. The company's mill in the city of Itariri, São Paulo, is operating at its limit, but demand is surging. "We plan to expand our capacity (by) 200% by the next year", Tamoios founder Rafael Tannus toldPPI Latin America.

Grupo Pão de Açúcar says that, within a year, it will replace 600,000 trays used per month in the company's own brand label products. The initiative, according to the retailer, aims to reduce the environmental impact as part of a policy to stimulate the use of biodegradable materials in packaging.

"We will start with our own brands and we hope that this will encourage other brands to do the same," said Grupo Pão de Açúcar's sustainability director Susy Yoshimura.

Aside from the brand image benefits of choosing an environmentally friendly solution, Tannus believes retailers can capture some efficiency gains. Different from plastic, molded pulp trays can absorb liquids and make products stay suitable for consumption for a longer period.

Future.Tamoios founder believes the future development of pulp-based substitutes for single use plastic depends on how the pulp and paper industry can provide a stimulus so that new solutions emerge.

"We could learn a lot from the plastic industry, which fomented the growth of a number of players who transform plastic and convert it into an infinity of products," Tannus said.

New companies that could be transforming pulp into new products still find innumerous difficulties, said the executive. From getting the equipment needed to arranging uninterrupted fiber supply, there are barriers for small and medium-sized players. "Stimulating the development of a series of companies that transform pulp is key, otherwise we will only have pulp-based products disputing space with plastic in huge markets, but not in fragmented ones."

The decision of an important retailer to reduce plastic consumption comes at a time of increasing debate regarding bans on single-use plastic. Brazil, as well as other countries in Latin America, has legal projects in discussion in order to limit plastic consumption.

--bydsousa@fastmarkets.com