Bio-Based Additives May Improve Papermaking

pulp and paper

The pulp and paper industry is no stranger to renewable resources; bio-based raw materials continually blip onto the market’s radar. Now, leading research has set the industry abuzz with potential papermaking improvements—through the use of bio-based additives. The solutions have already drawn attention for their proposed benefits: both in quality and financial practicality. 

The Chemical Contenders

This newest round of bio-based products debuted their papermaking potential at PaperWeek Canada 2020 this past February. Their promise for use in the pulp and paper industry quickly seized the spotlight. 


ECA, or engineered cellulose additive, took interest first. With a market launch in 2013 by AkzoNobel, the cellulose-based additive enjoys the benefit of time. ECA joined the Kemira fold in 2015 and, under its new banner, is offered as part of the EcoFill Lite lineup. The EcoFill program couples ECA with either a cationic polymer or charge control additive. ECA’s cellulose base primes it to oust petroleum-sourced additives, which suffer shelf life constraints and perform erratically. 

ECA also carries significant supply chain benefits. It’s conveniently shippable as a dry and stable powder, but can be recast into something pumpable with relative ease. Finally, ECA boasts improved tensile strength—an  impressive 15-18% uptick. Further gains in machine speed and drainage have followed suit during material handling. 


Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) also shows promise for some sectors of the pulp and paper industry. Fabricated mechanically into fine cellulose material, PaperWeek’s branch of MFC piques interest for graphics, packaging, and specialty-grade papers. This stems from MFC’s characteristic smoothness, excellent conditions for those paper specializations. 

MFC could also extend to food packaging, replacing riskier grades in the process. Currently used polyfluoroalkyl substances have received scrutiny for their health hazards, which MFC could remedy. With certain precursors applied, MFC may also succeed laminated or poly-coated food packaging, creating a completely renewable recycling loop. 

Where MFC falls short is supply chain, at least so far. MFC production can’t be conducted on site, but plans for widespread, in-house paper mill production are in the pipeline. 

Renewable ASA

Alkenyl succinic anhydride, or ASA, sources from petroleum and is a staple in the pulp and paper industry. MSOHO, or maleated sunflower oil high oleic, carries an extended chemical resemblance to ASA. ASA’s greener chemical kin owes its roots to a search for an ASA-related renewable resource, which resulted in MSOHO’s use. 

For now, MSOHO shares a mixture with ASA because of its inherent thickness. The 30/70 split allows for the continued use of ASA equipment, while still ensuring a greener footprint for its pulp and paper process. 

Pea Starch

When compared to traditional corn starch, pea starch outweighs in a number of renewable and return on investment (ROI) benefits. For starters, pea starch boasts a 15 degree cooler gel point, a major benchmark for starch viscosity. Second, pea starch has shown significant speed increases over corn starch in processes, along with larger ROI overall. Pea starch also gives bonding a boost: stronger adhesive entrance, improved durability, and enhanced fluid resistance can all be counted among the benefits. 

Your Pulp and Paper Resource

Renewable resources may shift—many times for the better—papermaking and the pulp and paper industry. Although, one pulp and paper resource remains firm throughout: ProcessBarron. Let us serve as your trusted pulp and paper solutions provider. You can reach out for a quote, contact a qualified representative, and stay up-to-date on current trends in the industry on our blog!