Renewable product developer Stora Enso’s new pilot bioplastics plant in Flanders, Belgium, is due to start production by the end of the year.

Production at the €9M (US$9.4bn) plant at the company’s Langerbrugge recycled paper mill near Ghent was expected to move from the pilot stage to industrial scale in 2026, the company said on 3 November.

The company said it would test its FuraCore technology at the facility to produce furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a major building block of bioplastic polyethylene furanoate (PEF). PEF could replace PET bottles, aluminium cans and glass jars in a range of applications and industries.

Initially, the pilot facility would use industrially available sugar (fructose) to produce chemicals and materials for application testing, but the company said the aim was to use crop-based sources, specifically sugars extracted from wood and other non-food-based biomass.

“Nature happens to provide our raw material in a very efficient way via crops. With our… technology to produce FDCA, we’re laying the foundation for a plastic… that originates from growing plants that absorb carbon dioxide during their lifespan,” the company said on its website.

“Implementing FuraCore chemistry at large scale globally, however, requires us to rethink our raw material sourcing. That’s where sugars from trees and agricultural residues come in.”

In addition to being used in PEF production, FDCA can also be used as a monomer component in coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers.

Following the pilot stage, Stora Enso vice president of emerging business Dirk den Ouden said the next step would be to collect data for the next scale-up. Once samples were available in large enough quantities, the company would work with partners and potential customers on the use of FuraCore products in a range of applications.

Helsinki-headquartered Stora Enso develops and produces wood and biomass-based products for a range of industries and applications worldwide