Read in the following a guest contribution by BIO-PLASTICS EUROPE (BPE) introducing the European research project coordinated by the Hamburg University of Applied Science.

For the EU Horizon 2020-funded project BIO-PLASTICS EUROPE “bio” is indeed the way forward. With 22 partners from 13 countries, the project represents both, the research and the industry sector. BPE supports the EU Plastics Strategy and seeks to promote circularity in the economy by contributing to the uptake of sustainable bio-based plastics. It aims to achieve this ambitious goal by a) fostering innovative bio-based product designs and business models for its efficient reuse and recycling; b) ensuring the safety of new and recycled materials; and c) developing approaches that focus on circular innovation.

The project kicked-off in September 2019, and since then the consortium has already published a total of 11 research papers, developed 5 prototypes of bio-based plastic materials, and started developing a safety protocol to ensure the safe use and end-of-life management of bio-based and biodegradable plastics. Currently, those 5 prototypes are being tested in laboratories and in the field, enabling the research teams to assess their properties, such as biodegradability. Subsequently, the team will base its assumptions on the obtained data to further evaluate the safety of new materials in products, such as cutlery, soft and rigid packaging, agricultural mulch film, toys, geo-membrane, fishing baits, and crates.

Systemic change in plastic usage can only evolve with a rising public awareness of bio-based plastics. Therefore, BPE actively engages with stakeholders to ensure a strong commitment of producers, politicians, industry, and private consumers. By creating two active initiatives: the Historic Cities against Plastic Waste Network (HISCAP) and the European Bioplastic Research Network (EBRN) as well as by organizing a series of 12 online stakeholder events, BPE established a highly functional group of 1000 stakeholders supporting their work. The series of 12 online stakeholder events was held from September 2020 – January 2021, with 11 online events organized in EU partner countries and one organized in Malaysia. The events hosted almost 800 participants in total. While 30% of them represented private companies and the industrial sector, 70% were stakeholders from research institutions and the public service sector.

The project aims to keep up the good momentum in 2021 with the many activities that are already in the pipeline. Workshops on bio-based and biodegradable materials are planned to keep the stakeholder network engaged. The project’s first Life Cycle Assessment report, as well as preliminary safety protocols and business models, will be available later this year. If you want to engage with BPE, know more about the project, and be informed about upcoming events please visit the project website. You can also subscribe to the project newsletter.