Novel lightweight fiberboard structures have been researched and developed to replace the existing military fiberboard containers with the ultimate goal to reduce the amount of solid waste for the military.
The objectives of this project were to: 1) investigate fiberboard formulations consisting of soy protein adhesives and raw materials, 2) study polymeric coatings on paper that could be utilized in fiberboard structures, 3) formulate coated corrugated containers and produce prototypes, and 4) evaluate the biodegradation properties in compost and convert fiberboard along with military waste to compost. These environmentally friendly materials were expected to meet the operational and performance requirements of combat ration packaging.
A research effort was conducted by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) during the period of 2007 to 2010 that utilized a three-prong approach to create more sustainable ration packages that offer performance, recyclability, biodegradability’ and compostability. The first approach explored a bio-based fiberboard comprised of a soy protein adhesive with either wood or pulped fibers to produce mechanically competitive fiberboard with water resistance properties. The obstacle for this approach was that prototypes or scale up could not be performed by preparing individual sheets with compression molding methods. The second approach examined different biodegradable coatings for paper formation, which enhanced wet strength properties of paper based products. The third approach identified effective coated corrugated alternatives that exhibited comparable performance under adverse environmental conditions to the existing containers. Compression studies were performed on prototypes after exposing the fiberboard containers to different environmental conditions. Analysis of variance of compression data as a function of moisture, insert design, and paper weight determined optimal design structures that will be used in transitioning this research.
The optimal corrugated container consists of a wax alternative medium (WAM™), a corrugated insert in the container and a paper weight of 69 lb. In addition, laboratory and full scale compost tests assessed the bio-environmental degradability (compostability) of various fiberboard containers under controlled aerobic composting conditions. This fiberboard waste was also used with military food waste and grass clippings to produce a valuable form of compost.
Overall, this research developed novel lightweight secondary packaging that has reduced fiber, improved functionality and is compostable and repulpable.