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DS Smith explores seaweed as alternative packaging material

The European seaweed industry expected to be worth around 8 billion pounds in the next 10 years, according to the packaging company.

Stones covered with seaweed on a tidal estuary at low tide. River Teign, Shaldon, Devon, UK

Seaweed could soon be harvested to make packaging, with the fiber having been earmarked as a potential sustainable alternative to conventional wood and paper material by global packaging company DS Smith.

As demand for sustainable goods increases, the firm revealed last week that it is exploring the use of seaweed fiber as a key raw material in the manufacture of its packaging products.

The FTSE100 company said it was working with a number of biotech companies to investigate how seaweed could be used as a raw material in products such as cartons, paper wraps and cardboard trays, and even its potential to replace petroleum-based packaging and plastics used to protect perishable goods.

The use of seaweed in manufacturing is a flourishing market, with the European seaweed industry expected to be worth around $11 billion in the next 10 years, according to DS Smith.

"As a leader in sustainability, our research into alternative raw material and fiber sources has the potential to be a real game changer for our customers and consumers who increasingly want products that are easy to recycle and have a minimal impact on the environment," said Thomas Ferge, paper and board development director at DS Smith. "Seaweed is one of the many alternative natural materials we're closely looking at, and while most people probably associate it with the beach or as an ingredient in sushi, it could have some exciting applications for us to help create the next generation of sustainable paper and packaging solutions."

Seaweed is the latest in the line of natural materials DS Smith is exploring as part of its $137 million circular economy research and development program, which aims to develop new materials over the next five years that could potentially to replace plastics in its packaging products. Other materials being explored include straw, hemp and cotton, as well as more unusual waste products such as cocoa shells or the pulp from processed sugar cane.

Such efforts form part of DS Smith's overarching aims to manufacture 100 percent reusable or recyclable packaging by 2023. The company also employs a box-to-box in 14 days recycling program, which sees used boxes turned firstly into paper and then transformed into new boxes.

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