A closed-loop and sustainable approach for the fabrication of plastic-free oil- and water-resistant paper products†
The current open-loop practices employed to render paper substrates water- and oil-repellent for packaging and non-packaging applications have generated ocean pollution and have placed daunting burdens on landfills. In this study, we report a green, unique and facile approach for the fabrication of grease- and water-resistant paper products with 100% recyclability of the paper pulp. Low surface energy polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) was grafted onto a biobased chitosan polymer via urea linkages to prepare the graft copolymer chitosan-graft-polydimethylsiloxane (chitosan-g-PDMS). Chitosan-g-PDMS was then applied as a coating onto an unbleached Kraft paper substrate from an aqueous solution. The coated paper substrates exhibited good hydrophobic properties with a water contact angle of 120.53 ± 0.96° and a Cobb 60 value of 9.89 ± 0.32 g m−2. The coated paper substrates also showed good oil-resistance as evident from the kit rating value of 11.7/12. The tensile strength, crushing resistance, bending stiffness, and internal tearing resistance of the paper before and after coating treatment was determined. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis was used to characterize changes in the porosity of the paper before and after the coating. The pulp recyclability of the coated paper was validated by subjecting the coated paper samples to repulping and washing treatment. This novel and practical approach can provide significant environmental benefits by offering plastic-free, fluorine-free and fully-recyclable water- and grease-resistant paper; thus promoting sustainability due to its unique closed-loop nature.