Less is More: STI Group develops Borax-free corrugated board

Lauterbach, 2015_06_16  - Until this year, Boron compounds were considered essential for the adhesive properties of glues used in corrugated board production. STI Group is one of the first companies in the industry to develop a glue formula that does away with Borax and similar additives.

Starch, water, caustic soda: these are the only ingredients used to make glue at the main STI Group production plant in Lauterbach since the beginning of this year. After exhaustive testing the production team eliminated Borax, which has been declared a cause for concern by REACH, the EU chemicals regulation.

STI Group is acting in the best interests of its customers and the wider community by developing a corrugated board adhesive with no adverse impact on health or the environment. Although STI Group has never been close to the reporting threshold of 0.1 percent for Borax in its packaging and display production, it wants to completely ban the substance at all its locations.

Customers such as Horst Pistorius from Export-Union GmbH, a leading bottler of international wines that specialises in Bag-in-Box solutions, welcomes the change: ‘A potentially critical point in the production chain has been eliminated and now can never be a problem. STI Group’s proactive approach shows that food safety is the highest priority for our partner."

Simply replacing Borax with another chemical was not an option. Instead, process innovation experts at STI Group Lauterbach examined new additive-free formulas. The result has been positive for both the company and its customers.

‘We supply packaging solutions to many food producers; as well as hygiene management and environmental protection, food safety is very important to us,’ says Maurer, Head of Center of Excellence. ‘We are already industry pioneers with our introduction of FSC-certified materials and switchover to migration-harmless inks and varnishes. Eliminating boron compounds is a further step in this direction.’

Less ingredients, better production

A positive spin-off is that the revised glue formula has improved processing and handling properties. Because of the change in its viscosity, the new glue is easier to apply than the old glue. ‘So far, we have not had to compromise on process speed when using the new glue,’ says Maurer.

All STI Group plants are planning to switch over to borax-free glue by the end of this year. ‘Our biggest challenge will be the high-performance machines, because they are especially sensitive to changes in production parameters,’ explains Greb. ‘But we are confident of finding a solution for these as well.’

STI Group - Driving Innovation

A renowned innovator, STI Group revolutionised the packaging market with offset-laminated corrugated board as early as the 1950s, before bringing the display to Europe the following decade.

Today, STI Group has over 100 employees working in product development and process innovation. ‘As a partner of brands, we are constantly developing ourselves and our products, to the benefit of our customers. Our own brand remains synonymous with creativity and innovation,’ says Maurer.

The company’s future growth strategy also supports the technical implementation of innovations. STI Group has announced that it will invest a total of 100 million euros in new technology by 2020.