Researchers challenge plastics at the European Paper Week


The paper industry opens doors to other sectors with interactive packaging, flexible design with biobased materials and cardboard buildings. Extending the traditional functions of paper was a key topic at the European Paper Week in Brussels.

The Biofore car was the eye catcher of the European Paper Week (25-27 November) in Brussels. It demonstrates a new approach to sustainable mobility, with basic elements made from wood such as the door panels and the passenger compartment floors. A majority of the wooden parts can be reused, and the car is compliant with standard regulations for driving on roads. The aim of the design is to inspire industries and designers with new, biobased, materials.

Students from the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences worked 4 years and 50,000 hours on the creation of the car. The materials were provided by the company UPM from Finland, an innovator in the forest industry. “Due to the global competition for resources we have to find new solutions replacing fossil fuels”, said Stefan Sundman, Vice President Public Affairs from UPM. “Whatever you can create out of crude oil, you can create out of wood, too.” Although the car was not made from paper, this design would not have been possible without the company’s long history in paper making and its knowledge of fibres, Sundman said.

Extending functions
Young researchers demonstrated in Brussels their ongoing efforts to improve the strength of paper. This will open doors to other industries, such as the aerospace, electronics, logistics and automotive sectors. There was a clear desire to challenge plastics. Extending functions was a key priority for many attendees. Less visible than a car but equally interesting was the Wifi blocking wallpaper from Centre Technique du Papier, aimed at protecting data and securing health issues in hospitals. In general, flexibility and low costs of paper were stressed as key differentiators to address societal challenges.

The European Paper Week is the annual event from the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).