Forestry Revolution for Paint & Skin Creams

By Axel Fox

As a consumer of cosmetics, do you know what your products contain and how they are produced? Or, when you are repainting the house / apartment / room, what is it you’re brushing up the walls with?

Currently, the cosmetics industry is trying to address the whole lifecycle of its products, including the ethical and responsible use of ingredients, fair trade, resources used during the manufacture, management of waste and residues, and the use of recyclable, reusable or biodegradable packaging.

One of the most publicized problems with the cosmetic industry is its use of toxic chemicals. Parabens, plasticizers, formaldehyde, BHA, pesticides, and coal tar are all rife in cosmetics manufacturing, and sunscreens are a great example of the harm these synthetic ingredients can cause when they reach waterways.

When you pull out the roller or the brush and start painting your home, the paint’s ingredients and how it is made are likely the least of your concerns. Visions of your soon-to-be beautiful living room, bedroom, or kitchen run through your mind, not paint solvents, resins, and pigments being blended in a factory.

It is estimated that all coatings, including stains and varnishes, are responsible for 1.8 percent of the 2.3 million metric tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs are common ground-water contaminants) released per year. And this is only one problem of many with paint production.

Forest industry is reinventing the manufacturing of sunscreens, skin creams, paints, and other products

FineCell, a spin out of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, has invented a new material called CellOx, which combines cellulose with a natural chemical – oxalic acid found in e.g. rhubarb. This new material is completely biobased, light to ship, and compared to other similar cellulose products, requires 80–90% less energy to manufacture. The new material is also transparent, enabling it to be used in a very large variety of products.

The FineCell technology turns pulp into added-value biomaterial that can be used both as a powder and as a water solution, i.e., a hydrogel. The biomaterial can easily carry other ingredients, making it an excellent binding agent for products such as sunscreens, skin creams, and paints.

Other than the above applications, FineCells materials can for example act as a rheological (flow) modifier for 3D bioprinting hydrogels/inks and structural support for printed scaffolds, and performance additive for paints and improving film formation and scratch resistance of the resulting coatings.

FineCell develops and produces one of the most attractive and versatile bio-based materials of the future, micro- and nanocellulose. The patented technology enables them to offer sustainable material solutions with unique performance benefits. Their products offer new bio-based alternatives to replace the fossil and often harmful chemicals in personal care products and consumer goods.

Metsä Group’s innovation arm, Metsä Spring, has leading a €1 million seed funding round in Swedish start-up FineCell to help develop and plan a demo production facility for the above technology.

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