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21. May 2024

THE MIGHTY PEA

Reinforcing Reusable Plastic Containers

Sustainability — the ability to maintain, or support, a process over a long period of time. That means looking into the entire life cycle of a process to ensure there is minimal waste and resources can be repurposed or reused.

During the processing of peas for products such as proteins, starches and fibers, the pea must be dehulled. This fibrous shell is not ideal for use in food ingredients; therefore, the Emsland Group looks for other ways to utilize this part of the pea to minimize waste and contribute to sustainable practices.

LOCAL COMPETENCE & COLLABORATION

In partnership with a local plastic container producer, bekuplast, the Emsland Group identified a new application for pea hulls. As an expert in the reusable container business, bekuplast focuses on the topic of sustainability through using recycled materials, and pea fiber was a raw material of interest. To ensure the best possible outcome, the project was supported by the 3N Competence Center in Lower Saxony: an independent organization that fosters cooperation between industry and research institutions

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to implement the use of renewable raw materials and the development and application of sustainable products, production processes and services with the aim of promoting bio-based value chains.

What started out as an idea became a challenging development over three years, due especially to the different processing requirements of the materials. For example, plastic is usually processed around 230°C, whereas pea fibers burn at 190°C. However, after successful tests under laboratory conditions, the application of pea fibers was successful and the first production on bekuplast’s injection molding machines took place in 2023.

INNOVATIVE RAW MATERIAL ALTERNATIVE FOR REUSABLE CONTAINERS

Not only does this new use of pea fiber enable the entire raw material to be utilized for sustainable products, the addition of pea fiber to the plastic containers also had positive results:

  • Plastic content in the containers can be reduced by approximately 20%
  • The containers are more stable compared to their non-pea counterparts
  • They have an attractive “grainy” visual characteristic

The first line of reusable plastic containers made with pea fibers is now established and being marketed worldwide by bekuplast and its partners — the first recycled product of its kind and a promising step towards further sustainable innovation in the plastic industry