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Competitive biodegradable, compostable and/or recyclable bio-based plastics for a sustainable end-of-life phase

Validate at pilot scale in an industrially relevant environment innovative production routes for bio-based polymers and related bio-based plastic products, following either of the following two options:

  • production route from biomass streams to biodegradable or compostable bio-based plastics that can be competitive with fossil-based plastics in terms of performance and price when produced on a large scale;
  • production route from biomass streams to bio-based plastics that can be recycled at end-of-life into comparable products and that are competitive with fossil-based plastics on performance and price when produced on a large scale.

The industry should actively participate to prove the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that deployment of the concepts can be accelerated and scaled up to an industrial level.

Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained. Proposals should prove, at least at a preliminary level, the technical and economic feasibility of new or optimised value chains based on the valorisation of biomass streams of various origins.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL)1 at the end of the project should be 52. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL. The proposed work should enable the technology to achieve TRL 5 within the timeframe of the project.

Proposals should include an environmental assessment using Consequential3 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies, and a cost analysis. Proposals should also include a viability performance check of the developed process(es) based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches, as well as measurement and testing approaches allowing for coming regulatory compliance checks, such as biodegradability, compostability and/or recyclability lab and field testing. Moreover, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for the needed product quality standards4.

Indicative funding: It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 2 million to maximally EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1 Technology Readiness Levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme:

2 TRL 5 requires that the technology be ‘validated in [a] relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies).’ For industry, this means at ‘pilot scale’ (meaning beyond and larger than ‘at lab scale’), preferably at an industrial site.

3 Only relevant when crop land based biomass is used as feedstock: ‘Consequential LCAs seek to identify the environmental consequences of a decision or a proposed change in a system under study (oriented to the future), which means that market and economic implications of a decision may have to be considered’. See also:

4 The technical basis of a new standard is usually established through a programme of research termed Pre-Normative Research (PNR), i.e. research undertaken prior to standardisation (normalisation). Such research would be used to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of the technique or process to be standardised and to investigate its limitations. Once the technique or process has been developed and its boundaries have been explored, then, for new and emerging areas of technology, it would be normal to prepare a 'pre-standard', such as a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) or Technical Specification (TS), to provide a document in a relatively short time frame for evaluation by potential users. The availability of a pre-standard provides a basis for further research, usually termed Co-Normative Research - i.e. research undertaken in conjunction with the standardisation process, to establish a statistical basis for the technique or process, in particular its reproducibility (same user), repeatability (different users) and uncertainty. (

Plastics are an essential part of modern society, with applications in almost every product range. Currently only a small part of the plastics produced are bio-based, as bio-based polymers usually bear a higher cost than the competing fossil-based alternatives. Also, current bio-based plastics on the market do not offer a large enough functional improvement to justify a premium price.

Biodegradability, compostability and recyclability of bio-based plastics may offer a significant added value in terms of sustainability. However, associated performance and costs still hinder the full marketability and competitiveness of biodegradable, compostable or recyclable bio-based plastics compared with their fossil-based counterparts.

The specific challenge is to develop biodegradable, compostable or recyclable bio-based polymers that can compete with fossil-based counterparts in terms of price, performance and environmental sustainability on a cradle-to-cradle basis.

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least 1 new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy clusters;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least 1 new bio-based value chain;
  • contribute to KPI 5: set the basis for at least 2 bio-plastics with improved sustainability performance (in terms of biodegradability, compostability or recyclability) compared with existing benchmarks identified within the project;
  • overall reduction of at least 10 % in the carbon footprint of the considered bio-based operation compared with the state-of-the-art (shown by an LCA taken up in one of the work packages).