DuPont’s Tyvek has been around for more than 50 years, serving a range of verticals with protective packaging and covering solutions. Although back then the developers would have hardly thought that synthetic paper would feature in the 2016 stop-motion animation film, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’. Also, who would have imagined the creation of Bella, the bride, from recycled medical packaging wastes. There is more than mere ink and paper to the progressive growth story of the synthetic paper market. The highly established industry is now undergoing a phase that goes beyond the traditional scope of applications.
Synthetic paper is a polymer where durability of plastics meets the cost-efficiency of fabrics. These high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and Biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) class of polymers are synthesized with petroleum as its base component. Stark visual resemblance to traditional paper made from wood pulp is the only thing it has in common. This artificial version of paper is used where packaging, printing, and converting applications have special safety requirements. For instance, consider waterproof packaging of sterile medical equipment that can be easily torn off in a jiffy during emergencies, or protective suits for personnel working in a hazardous environment, which needs to be comfortable enough to allow movement. Apart from these, it also finds usage in tamperproof labeling to reclaim lost profit margins from counterfeited products.
More recently, there has been a considerable drift in the class of its end users. Both designers and artists concord that colors develop a lot better and dynamically on synthetic papers as compared to normal ones. The yearly Wally Awards celebrate this drift in focus of the industry in a rather offbeat manner. Although it most certainly brings something equally unusual each time for consumers. Fresh design possibilities, terrific pieces of art, and optimized packaging ideas; it can all be seen on display at the contest. It is held by YUPO Corporation to explore and tap the hidden design potential of its primary product. Several renowned designers opt synthetic paper for commercial reproduction of their artwork, as they are tear-proof. At the same time, painters describe their experiences with the special papers as satisfying. According to one such YUPO user, “Watercolors are not lost in the paper, they float on top and playfully interact. In addition, when the colors dry on YUPO, they are as vivid as when wet.”
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Better strength and water resistance explain the extensive acceptance of synthetic paper. What it does not explain is the voluminous mass of non-biodegradable waste packaging material that goes into landfills. Manufacturers understand their roles in dealing with the aftermath of such widespread usage. Their research and development activities now target to produce completely recyclable products. Beacon Converters, Inc. chose Tyvek specifically for Bella given “its widespread use throughout the healthcare industry and its ability to be recycled or recovered for repurposing.” This indicates the level of importance paid by companies towards being eco-friendlier with their future approaches to reflect well in their annual sustainability reports.
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