Chemigate’s modified starch helps protect the environment

Starch-based binders are better for the climate than synthetic polymers.

— With our new dry-modification process, we have succeeded in reducing the environmental impact of our new starch products significantly. However, wet-modified products are still needed. The carbon footprint of the synthetic polymers most commonly used in the manufacture of paper and board is many times that of modified starches,

says Aki Laine, CTO of Chemigate. According to him, the size of the post-cultivation carbon footprint is influenced by the starch’s degree of processing, the energy sources and chemicals used in the processing, and transportation.

— Studies show that the environmental impact of starch-based binders is significantly lower than that of the synthetic polymers commonly used in paper manufacture,” explains Laine.   

The carbon footprint of Finnish starch ranges from 500 to 1,500 grams per kilogram of product, a value that is typical of plant-based bioproducts and lower than the level achieved by several corresponding products. These figures are from a study conducted by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), analyzing entire product life cycles from the cultivation of raw materials to the finished product The goal was to measure the progress made by the industry in its efforts at reducing its carbon footprint and to determine what the next steps should be.

This study, coordinated by the Association for Starch Industry, which is part of the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, covered both barley and potato starches. In addition to these native starches, the carbon footprint analysis included Chemigate’s dry- and wet-modified starches.  

Starch is not only an ingredient for food production but also an important raw material for the paper and packaging industry, where it can be used to replace fossil materials.  Potato and barley cultivation accounts for just over half of the environmental burden of starch products. However, emissions caused by cultivation have already decreased significantly through advances in the manufacture of fertilizers. That of potatoes has the smallest climate impact, because they have a high starch content and do not require as much additional calcium as other plants.  

The carbon footprint of starch can be further reduced by improving crop yields, developing industrial processes further, and utilizing new energy solutions. Finland’s starch industry has already committed to these measures. 

Modified starches and other polymers

  • According to an EDPLA study, the carbon footprint of synthetic polymers
    is three times as large as that of the starch-based binder TARANTULA 215.
  • The new dry-modification process has significantly reduced the environmental impact of new starch products.
  • The chemicals used in the modification of starches have a larger environmental impact than the other parts of the modification process.
  • Chemigate is taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of its cationization chemicals by a third via energy-related investments to be made in 2020.