Biobased packaging products can be biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. 12 EU-funded projects demonstrate how at a recent conference organized by European Bioplastics.

In the past few years, several projects funded by the Bio-based Industries Joint Technology Initiative, such as BIOnTop, Usable Packaging, CelluWiz, MANDALA have developed novel alternative solutions to eco-design packaging products to avoid the incineration and landfill routes at their end-of-life phase, rerouting them instead towards approved and accepted applications, where they can add value without adding an environmental burden.  These four projects and other eight EU-funded projects joined forces on 11 May 2023 for a joint conference organised by European Bioplastics, ENCO and AIMPLAS to present their latest results and exchange with their peers on future applications of bioplastics and biobased materials. The conference also saw several successful contributions of other EU-funded projects such as PRESERVE, SEALIVE, GLAUKOS, Polybioskin, REPuropose, RECOVER, ECOFUNCO and NENU2PHAR. Back in 2018, the consortia of BIOnTop, CelluWiz, MANDALA and USABLE PACKAGING responded to a call of the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU)/European Commission related to the development of biobased packaging products that are biodegradable/ compostable and/or recyclable. The specific challenge of these twin projects was to make the end-of-life phase for packaging significantly more sustainable.

Over the past years, all these projects designed new processing systems for functional bio-based packaging products that are reusable, recyclable, and/or compostable and biodegradable, as an alternative to the currently identified benchmark products.  The projects addressed the production process, including the necessary improvements to lamination and coating steps to obtain the target end-products and their specifications. One of the biggest challenges addresses was the one posed by multi-layer products: The twin projects considered the feasibility of producing multi-layer/single-polymer solutions and ensured that the required functionalities and outperform state-of-the-art alternatives for sustainability were met.

Along with the environmental sustainability of the developed solutions, other factors – such as innovation in functionality and production – were considered in these proposals. Any potential hazards associated with the developed processes and products were analyzed to ensure that the products fully comply with REACH legislation and other toxicity requirements, safety requirements, and any relevant EU legislation. Industrial stakeholders actively participated in the four consortia and demonstrated the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that the concepts can be deployed more quickly and scaled up to apply industrial-wide.

Within their lifetime, the projects have proven that the packaging products are recyclable or compostable/ biodegradable in various environments to reduce their overall environmental footprint. A more circular packaging production is possible. The benefits of a circular