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AIMPLAS is Working to Improve Bioplastics Performance for Better Preservation of Food, Beverages and the Environment

AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, is participating in the European PRESERVE Project with the aim of improving the performance of bioplastics so that they not only ensure optimal preservation of food and beverages, but also protect non-renewable resources in the environment and on the planet. Within the framework of this research project, AIMPLAS is developing bio-based coatings with water vapour barrier properties and reinforced materials with improved mechanical properties while taking the entire life cycle into account, including end of life (biodegradability and recyclability).

Image Credit: AIMPLAS

The PRESERVE Project is coordinated by IRIS and has 26 participating partners. Its main goal is to replace the fossil-based plastics used in food and beverage packaging with bio-based plastics, and promote the circular use of plastics by improving existing technologies in packaging design, waste management and polymer recovery. Innovative processes and materials, such as coatings and adhesives, are being developed that will promote the circularity of bio-based packaging and help boost Europe’s competitiveness in the industry.

Specifically, AIMPLAS is working on the development of PHA-based water vapour barrier coatings to improve the properties of cellulose-based packaging. It is also developing reinforcement materials in conventional compounding and flat sheet extrusion processes to improve the mechanical properties of recycled bioplastics. Furthermore, AIMPLAS is involved in chemical and enzymatic recycling processes to give a second life to the newly developed packaging.

As explained by Lola Gómez, principal investigator of the project at AIMPLAS, “Our aim is to minimize the use of fossil-based plastics by encouraging the development of bioplastics with the same and even better properties. To this end, work is being done on different strategies to improve properties such as the development of barrier coatings based on proteins and PHA, the development of bio-based adhesives, the application of e-beam irradiation to improve barrier and mechanical properties, and the development of polymer reinforcement technologies to improve the properties of recycled bioplastics”.

Gómez continued, “We also focus on improving the end of life of these materials through the use of enzymatic recycling of biopolyesters to obtain oligomers that can be used as additives, the use of enzymes embedded in bioplastics to improve the biodegradability of materials, and the use of enzymatic detergents to favour the delamination of multilayer structures. Work is thus being done to obtain new materials that are sustainable when created and to improve their end of life”.

The four-year project is now at the halfway stage. AIMPLAS hosted the 24M general meeting of the project consortium in February.

PRESERVE will develop different types of packaging articles based on cellulose fibre and bioplastics, fully based on renewable resources and with minimal environmental impact to validate the results from a circular economy perspective. The project will improve biomaterials for optimal preservation of food and beverage products, and will upcycle the resulting end-of-life materials to produce high added-value transport boxes, bags and packaging for personal care products.

PRESERVE therefore has the potential to change up to 60% of the packaging currently used on the market. This ambitious goal is made possible thanks to the collaboration of 26 organizations from nine European countries: IRIS, ASU, Centexbel, AIMPLAS, Fraunhofer, ITENE, NTT, UNIBO, ADM Biopolis, PLANET, BOSTIK, Carbiolice, SÜDPACK, Graphic Packaging International, SIBO Group, BEIERSDORF, OWS, PLATO, ROMEI, DENIMX, SILON SRO, KNEIA, Crowdhelix Network, European Bioplastics, Danone RD and Ferrero.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 under grant agreement No. 952983.

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