We all struggle to recycle absolutely everything, but there are exciting solutions happening right n
It’s frustrating when unpacking a grocery shop and so much is destined for landfill
So much plastic used to encase our food can’t be dealt with recycling mills right now. In fact, it’s also tough when your favourite products get called out as being very damaging to the environment. Did you know, for example, that Pringles’ packaging has historically, comprised of polymers and plastics that won’t ever break down? Recently the company has tried hard to make changes but with a polymer barrier and a plastic lid how much of that will still end up in the sea and other watercourses?
Yes, Kellogg, Pringles’ manufacturers, are trialling some new lids but the fear is around food spoilage
Photo: Arnold Antoo
We all know that food waste and spoilage is a massive waste issue. Is there another solution? I think there must just be. This week I have had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Morby CTO of Quettil.
Who is Quettil and the SQ Group?
It is a Singapore registered entity that represents their partner, the SQ Group in Jinan, Shandong province, China. What do they do? They research projects then create a range of products generated from corn-cob biomass.
Why is corn cob biomass such an exciting product?
Photo Daniel Klein
This group have the capacity to move towards sustainable products that are created from biomass. Their aim is to eventually remove all polymers from food packaging. Not only this, their capacities allow them to work on many other materials including graphene, healfiber and the aforementioned cellulose. These developments could eventually wipe out packaging materials that end up unprocessed in landfill globally.
With US$1.2-billion turnover and 4000 employees around the globe the SQ Group have the capacity to undertake research projects and then deliver at scale. They have already created waterproof paper with no fluorocarbons. However, it has not all been plain sailing; making the paper greaseproof has been a challenge. Yet this has now been cracked and fine tuning is underway.
If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it
I asked Daniel if the work was challenging and he said that ‘if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. We work on many different variations and our aim is to use cellulose from plants and transform biomass into products wherever we can and utilise regenerated compost. We have the capacity to create special papers for packaging and the basic process can also be used in household, architectural, industrial, and marine paints and even cement depending on the bonds required. We have the capacity to really push the packaging boundaries and right now we are looking for exciting and out of the box companies that are looking for brand new and left field possibilities. As a group we work best on 6-month research projects, but our capacity doesn’t stop there. We have crack technician teams and other technical staff. In addition, we have even built our own paper mill to test these products. We want to be in control of every part of the process so we can make improvements and further developments at every stage. We are very serious about our potential and want to be a one stop solution for manufacturers’
The challenge for Lignin
I also asked him about the many obstacles that need to be tackled in this niche. ‘There are a few environmental processes being used right now’ he said. ‘A good example is Lignin. It is quite common. To explain, these are a significant group of low molecular weight polyphenols and are found in plants, especially seeds, whole grains, and vegetables. They are extremely useful.’ However, they traditionally have a distinctive odour when they are processed, which was a significant challenge in the past, but not anymore, as we have now been solved this problem. We have been developing odourless paper with cellulose/Lignin within it. That could well be a game changer. Certainly, we have our own power plant and the capacity to upscale. These two things alone make us an extraordinary proposition for a number of industries including food and drink packaging, textile and paints.’
We are pitching for ‘out of the box ideas’ and we are open to suggestion
Photo: Nathan Dumlao
I asked Daniel what they were currently working on and was surprised to learn that disposable and compostable tableware was being developed right now.
‘COVID-19 has underscored the health issue and disposable tableware will help consumers have renewed trust in the restaurant experience. People cannot wait for solutions and this pandemic has underscored a new way of working. This is where companies need to be super-flexible in their reactions to this fast-paced situation and focus on being proactive and creative. At this very moment, our challenge is the greaseproof elements of all our papers, and we are working hard to resolve this effectively.’
What environmental benefits does cellulose packaging have?
Photo: Aaron Burden
“It reduces polymers immediately. For example, an average sweet wrapper is wrapper comprised of around 100 or 200 layers of aluminium and clay alongside polymers and they just don’t break down. We also want to eliminate aluminium film coatings and oil-based products and fluorocarbons. Obviously, we cannot get rid of these things immediately, but we certainly feel that our company can make iterative improvements that all add up in the long term. For example, the internal layer might have aluminium within it, but the outer waterproofing is cellulose. We won’t get to Xanadu straight away, but we can certainly move a long way towards it.
What’s exciting is that we are working on denim and other materials too
By adding anti-bacterial graphene, the need for washing is reduced. For example, in high moisture climates like Singapore, for example, if denim is left unwashed for any length of time is grows mould. We can solve this and when we wash clothes less often, we pollute less and reduce water consumption. It works on every level. Even shipping products can be improved with the use of our new marine paints that cut the use of Zinc’
We care about every aspect and technique of production
I asked Daniel what the company’s USP really was and he felt they could make a profound difference to the health of the environment. One example is the impact their products could have on what is currently mined. Graphene oxide for example is dug from the ground but our bio graphene comes from corn cobs. That means the products comes from corn and can be used to wrap the harvested corn in a neat cyclical process. Graphene has conductive links that also enables us to use eco-friendly printing too. All these developments are accelerating. COVID-19 has shown us we just cannot afford to wait and do nothing. The problems can be solved and we’re here to do exactly that.
To find out more about how Quettil might be able to help you do check out Quettil.com Meanwhile, if you are looking for highly talented people