THE PROJECT

WHY BIOCOMPLACK

BIOCOMPLACK is a project granted from UE in the  European framework project HORIZON 2020

BIOCOMPLACK would be a pioneering alternative to the biobased packaging, which will bring benefits to consumers, environment, and companies that implement it in their products.

Currently, food packaging has two challenges: reducing the substantial environmental impact originate by tons of packaging remains and achieve a longer life of foods containing.

The BIOCOMPLACK project aims to achieve biobased, biodegradable and compostable food packaging to improve the barrier properties in 100 times compared to other biobased packaging. This allows 300% lengthen the shelf life of foods contained therein, extending its life.

These containers are innovative because they are made with a multilayer PLA structure reinforced with organoclays which provide natural preservatives to the food and cellulose nanocrystals to achieve excellent barrier properties to oxygen and water vapor.

In this project of the Fast Track to Innovation programme (Horizon 2020) where five European entities are involved, which will work together for 30 months in a project with a 2.7M € budget. Tecnopackaging is the only Spanish entity.

Fast Track To Innovation is a call of the research framework Horizon 2020 to support projects of business innovation in collaboration to bring to market products, processes and services sustainable and innovative that respond to the challenges of society and are competitive in global markets.

SUMMARY

BIOCOMPLACK is a food biopackaging with three main points of innovation: the use of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), the multilayer structure and the PLA biopolymer reinforced with organoclays which contain natural food preservatives. These three innovations will enhance the barrier properties to oxygen (more than 100 times compared with common biopackaging) and water vapour as well as will improve the shelf-life of food. BIOCOMPLACK is an alternative to common bio-packaging products that enhances 300% the shelf-life of food.

This international project is born in a consortium integrated by two large enterprises (Sapici and Goglio), two small-medium enterprises (SMEs) (NaturePlast and Tecnopackaging) and a research institution (Packlab, University of Milan) from four different countries which together cover the supply chain of the food packaging industry.

BIOCOMPLACK will have strong impact in the society and in the environment. BIOCOMPLACK will be an eco-friendly packaging from natural renewable sources instead of fossil fuels, will reduce the plastic packaging waste thanks to its biodegradability in the nature and will generate at the end of its useful life an added value product, the compost (to improve the quality of soils and provide nutrients). Our BIOCOMPLACK solution will provide a loop cycle of sustainability.

European Union will be also impacted by BIOCOMPLACK because it will make a substantial contribution to innovation in the European economy, will reduce the import of biopackaging from outside the EU and we will export at international level.

This consortium will also be benefited by bringing into the market the BIOCOMPLACK food packaging in 30 months. The profitability of the project presents for the first 5 years a ROI of 2.47 and the pay-back of the project will be achieved after 2 years and 9 months after the beginning of the commercialization

THE RATIONAL PROJECT

The BIOCOMPLACK Project attempts to respond to the industrial and technological challenge of developing active and more sustainable packaging. It is labelled “active” as enhanced barrier properties them into real actors for product preservation, increasing product durability, keeping its quality, while reporting to the consumer on content preservation conditions.

Developing packaging by means of bioplastics provides this project with high relevance alongside a social responsibility component in our modern society. It is becoming increasingly indispensable to move towards a new waste management and disposal policy to meet the global challenge of replacing old types of plastic packaging with recyclable and biodegradable materials. It should not be ignored that plastic packaging (whether rigid or flexible) makes up  40% of all packaging used worldwide. That is why it is essential to develop it from sustainable resources that assure a similar performance to that found in traditional petroleum-based plastics.

Thus, BIOCOMPLACK, by resorting extensively to applied research and establishing tight collaboration ties among entities and industries all over Europe, truly provides an answer for three overarching problems regarding bioplastics: those related to legislation, market and a respect for the environment.

At the regulatory level, it is true that local and national legislations are increasingly imposing restrictions or even completely banning the use of petroleum-based plastic packaging. Thus, there are great opportunities for alternative products from bioplastics.  In 2015, the City of New York banned the use of expanded polystyrene and San Francisco did the same with plastic water bottles. Much earlier, in 2007, it had imposed a ban on the use of plastic carrier bags. Closer to us, in France, there will be a ban on non-compostable carrier bags from 2016. This is no trivial  matter, bearing  in mind that 17 billion plastic carrier bags are used per year, half of which alongside lots of other  packaging, end up being dumped, taking hundreds of years to degrade, as well as being ingested by birds and sea-creatures. It is a proven and widely-known fact that experts have detected huge amounts of packaging flotsam in all oceans, which end up in the seabed and back into the food chain.

Other countries are moving in the same direction regarding one-use-only plastic packaging items. Even the European Parliament has taken steps in this respect. In 2014, it requested that by 2019 the EU countries bring down the use of this type of bags by at least an 80% as to the 2010 figures, a year in which a European citizen made an average use of 200 plastic bags. Countries will have to limit the number of packaging items per person and the fact that these are handed over, free of charge, at selling outlets.

Bioplastics is a sector undergoing a clear development and paradoxically, Europe, despite being at the cutting-edge of research in this field, could lag behind other regions such as Asia or the USA as for its production capacities. Those regions have invested more heavily in measures towards the rapid introduction of these materials into their markets, which show a more rapid growth as a result.  Most projects are being introduced in countries such as Thailand, India and China and it is estimated that, by the year 2019, about 80% of bioplastics in the world will be produced in Asia. This is also an opportunity for Europe, where bioplastics production is forecast to grow by 300% by 2018. The European Commission reinforced this growth by designating bioplastics as one of the emerging and innovation sectors to get legislative support (lead market).

In this field, a consortium composed by 4 industries and 1 university will ensure that Europe has a word on the bioplastic market, by bringing to the market a new bioplastic packaging.

The Biocomplack Project has a direct impact on a third field of great importance: the preservation and respect of the environment. Among other reasons, bioplastics help us reduce our dependence on limited fossil resources, foreseeably to become more expensive in the years to come, by replacing them with other renewables such as annual maize or sugar beet crops, or perennial crops such as manioc or sugar cane. The use of this biomass to create products based on bioplastics cuts down greenhouse effect gases and can be turned into renewable energy by resorting to recycling at the end of the product´s useful-life cycle. As a result, it can be asserted that one of the main benefits from bioplastics is that they allow us to put an end to the cycle and increase resource efficiency.

The raw materials (corn-starch, sugar cane…) to make this material, feed on biomass. This material (polylactic acid - PLA) is transformed into a useful product, from which, at the end of its useful lifespan and during its disposal phase and organic recycling, energy is recovered and new biomass is obtained. This organic recycling (composting) also enables us to obtain valuable biomass and humus for plant growth and closes the cycle once more. Thus, the use of bioplastics can notably increase waste management efficiency all over Europe.

NECESSITY OF SUISTANAIBLE FOOD PACKAGING

The increasingly time-constrained lifestyles, along with rising number of single person households, and a growing out-of-hours working culture has created an increasing consume of packed food: A significant number of consumers demand conveniently packaged time-saving products and packaged for on-the-move consumption. Currently most of the items found in a supermarket are packed in plastic to extend their shelf-life and preserve their properties.

Comodities polymers (e.g. polyethylene terephthalate (PET), low density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene (PP)) have been used in traditional packaging for many years because they are flexible, transparent and light, but mainly because they have good barrier properties that extend the shelf-life of food. Nevertheless, the increased use of these synthetic polymers has led to deleterious ecological problems due to their non-biodegradable nature and their non-renewable origin, the fossil fuels. According to Eurostat, the waste generation by plastic packaging reached 15 million tons in 2012 in Europe. The Global Packaging Alliance reported that the percentage of plastic packaging for food and beverage is the 60%.

The European society has demonstrated its concern about the environmental problem of plastics by the increasing rate of recycling plastic packaging (from 3.5 million tons in 2004 to 5.3 million tons in 2012)2. In fact, according to the 2013 Eurobarometer survey, 80% of European consumers want to buy products with a minimal impact on the environment. People are interested in packaging less contaminant or biodegradable and from not fossil sources.

Biopackaging is an alternative to traditional because of two reasons: it is based in renewable sources instead of fossil sources and it is biodegradable.

RESULT

The result of this project will be a flexible biobased plastic, with enhanced barrier properties, which will be used mainly as a food bag, but also as a cover film for rigid packaging, like plastic trays for chicken. It will be available at the end of the project.

Advantages:

  • This new packaging will extend shelf life of product by 3 times, compared with traditional packaging.

  • It reduce food waste.

  • It is eco-friendly (biobased material, biodegradable).

  • It reduce costs at the end of the value chain: As shelf life is increased there is a decreasing need of cold storage room for stocks, less vendor and stocker movements…

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