Dear Graduates, psst. The word is nanocellulose – the 21st Century version of plastics

At Vireo Advisors, we are pleased to be working on commercialization of a high performing version of the earth’s most abundant material, cellulose. The attached article identifies market applications from cellulose nanomaterials in the millions of tons, which could help us better manage forests, as well as product footprint.  Nanocellulose is derived from trees, biomass, bacteria, tunicates, waste, and it can be reused, recycled or composted. Enabled by nanotechnology, renewable and sustainable materials can save energy and materials, overcoming inefficiencies in manufacturing.

Innovation toward more bio-based, environmentally friendly products is a growing trend, influencing business decisions and corporate investment globally. Not a fad; safer and more sustainable product development is a growing segment. As a renewable, low toxicity and biodegradable material that can displace petroleum-based packaging, metallic components, and other non-renewable materials, cellulose nanomaterials represent an important niche for more sustainable product design and development. The potential for structural color applications, as in the Blue Morpho butterfly wing, increases market opportunities.

Innovation drivers of sustainability: Consumers demand transparency in products, seeking to understand the types and sources of ingredients, and better packaging for them. Companies are increasingly required to report environmental performance to their customers and supply chain partners. Sustainability reporting drives companies toward better performance on energy, water and material consumption, natural resource depletion, and impacts on climate as progress toward targeted goals. The trend toward lightweighting, or reducing the weight of packaging, saves cost and fuel, a “triple bottom line” win that also decreases air pollution. Reducing energy, water and material consumption in product manufacturing, which lowers costs and increases profitability. Concerns about end-of-life product impacts also drive public and consumer interest in reusable, recoverable, compostable and recyclable packaging to lower overall life-cycle impacts.

Further, consumers also demand safety from products, and the trend of “red-listing” substances over concerns about adverse health impacts drives companies toward safer alternatives. Several plastic additives or precursors have been targeted over the years by governmental and non-governmental organizations over potential impacts. Regardless of whether third party claims made about toxicity are valid, the perception that they may be creates demand for ingredients with lower impacts.