EU-funded BIOnTop project secures first wins on road to petroleum plastic reduction
29 Jul 2020 --- European project BIOnTop has achieved “promising results” in its development of recyclable and reusable packaging. The EU-funded project is led by Aimplas, a Spanish plastics technology company. At the end of the first of a four year long project, BIOnTop conducted experimental work on copolymers and compounds with customized biodegradability and multifunctional coating solutions with customized properties. The end-goal is to develop competitive, low-cost packaging solutions that align with current EU legislation’s move toward plastic pollution reduction.
“Both society and legislation are asking for solutions to the problem of plastics disposal, the depletion of finite non-renewable resources and carbon footprint. Therefore, this kind of research – where the materials are almost completely bio-based and which at end of life can be composted or recycled – are very important,” Dr. Rafael Alonso Ruiz, Chemical Technology Group at Aimplas, tells PackagingInsights.
What can it be used for?
BIOnTop aims to develop new bio-copolymers, compounds, biocomposites and coatings formulations and process them into the following demonstrators:
Recyclable, home-compostable monomaterial trays and films for fruits and vegetables.
Recyclable, multilayer trays and films for modified atmosphere packaging (e.g. for dairy and personal care products).
Home compostable and organically recyclable nets for fruits and vegetables.
Home compostable and organically recyclable coated textiles (e.g. woven fabric tea bags).
Recyclable, reusable coated woven fabrics (e.g. food wraps).
The company has also set out to create recyclable and reusable secondary packaging from secondary raw materials for extruded blown bags and non-woven bags. “In general, the developed technology could potentially be applied for any packaging that requires tailor-made properties,” Dr. Alonso explains.
In this first year now concluded, BIOnTop discovered that bio-based materials would be the most appropriate to achieve its goals. The research team published two technical deliverables and one scientific paper. The first deliverable is an extensive review of the state-of-the-art, including scientific papers, patents and commercial information on biodegradable household packaging and textiles.
The second deliverable consists of a compilation of information on commercial biopolymers, additives and monomers. This information will help select the source materials to be used to start working with the laboratory scale-up formulation in upcoming project activities.
Three year objectives
At the end of the second year, the BIOnTop research team expects to start biodegradation tests on the developed copolymers. The synthesis of the copolymers presenting the desired properties will be scaled up. Initial PLA-based compounds will also be characterized in view of their convertibility into the selected applications. Further, films and fibers should be available for coating trials by this time.
In the third year, multifunctional coatings with the desired barrier properties will be available with a bio-based content above 95 percent. Moreover, the researchers will be studying the biodegradation of the polymers, compounds and coatings for home compostability, while also testing their biogas potential.
At the end of the fourth year, recyclable bags from secondary raw materials, trays and films/pouches for fruits and vegetables, dairy and personal care will be available for characterization, including biodegradation tests, nets and fabrics with the potential to biodegrade in home composting. Also, the final life cycle assessment report will show that the developed products reduce environmental impact in contrast to selected benchmarks. Moreover, they will deliver stakeholders and policy waste management recommendations.
“In summary, the potential to substitute fossil benchmarks of the BIOnTop solutions will be demonstrated and final plans will be in place for the transition to the post-project phase to advance the TRLs and reach the market,” Dr. Alonso outlines.
He further envisions commercial availability of the products “one or two years after the conclusion of the project.”
Aimplas is heavily invested in plastic reformulation. Recently, the company teamed up with Spanish olive oil producer Olivarera de los Pedroches to develop biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions from olive stone waste.
By Anni Schleicher
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