Featured image for Material Highlight: Melodea's Cellulose Nanocrystal Barriers Provide More Sustainable Alternative To Plastic

Material Highlight: Melodea's Cellulose Nanocrystal Barriers Provide More Sustainable Alternative To Plastic

by Rudy Sanchez on 03/16/2023 | 2 Minute Read

Creating plastic-free packaging with liners or barriers that perform like their unrecyclable counterparts can be challenging. Just ask Starbucks, with its Odyssean quest to give consumers a genuinely recyclable to-go cup. 

One Israeli firm, Melodea, offers plant-based, recyclable, biodegradable, and non-toxic alternatives to plastic-based air, moisture, and oil barrier coatings.

Melodea’s range of products includes MelOx, VBcoat, and VBseal, and they're all made out of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) derived from paper and wood pulp sidestreams. Instead of synthetic polymers, CNC-based materials get made from cellulose, a compound vital in the structure of the cell walls of plants. These barriers are incredibly necessary for food to stay fresh on the shelf, as they keep out unwanted oxygen, grease, and water.

CNC-based barriers such as Melodea’s have the promise of helping brands meet sustainability goals, especially for QSR restaurants. We don't need to remind you—but we will anyway, based on some of the things we STILL see in recycling bins today—that you can't recycle the classic to-go cup because of its plastic liner. Ditto paper food sachets.

Recently, Melodea entered the American market, offering its CNC-based materials through a toll manufacturing partnership. With a North American plant, Melodea hopes to meet the increased demand for sustainable alternatives to conventional films and barrier materials made from plastic. Currently, the materials company is producing things like paper-based pouches and molded pulp trays.

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“CNC from naturally abundant and renewable cellulose is emerging as one of the most promising green solutions to help replace environmentally harmful materials,” said Shaul Lapidot, CEO and co-founder of Melodea, in a recent press release last October announcing its US plant. “The new plant, combined with our newly established ties in the US, can potentially triple our manufacturing capacity to meet amplified demands. It also will shorten the travel and subsequent carbon footprint by bringing production closer to our main markets in South America and the US.”

Cellulose is one of the most abundant and versatile compounds on earth, and it can be harvested from plants (and waste) from the paper and wood industries, as well as algae. Celloulose’s ability to perform similarly to petroleum and synthetic compounds provides ample promise for sustainable packaging that is still food-safe.