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Development of new Competitive and Sustainable Bio-Based Plastics

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEWPACK (Development of new Competitive and Sustainable Bio-Based Plastics)

Período documentado: 2019-12-01 hasta 2021-08-31

The NEWPACK – Development of New Competitive and Sustainable Bio-Based Plastics – project was launched on June 2018 with consortium of 12 partners consisting of academic research organizations and small and large industries coming from Finland, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Romania, Switzerland and Belgium. University of Oulu, Finland, is the project coordinator.

Packaging industry consumes significant amount of all produced polymers and petrochemical-based polymers are addressed with several problems; the adequacy and availability of raw material, carbon dioxide emissions, waste management and microplastic pollution. Successful production of bio-based polymers from highly abundant raw material would enhance the self-sufficiency of EU with lower carbon footprint.

Thus the overall objective of the NEWPACK project has been to develop at least two novel bio-based materials with improved technical performance and sustainability to be applied in food packages. Additional aims have been to validate the manufacturing of the materials at relevant industrial scale and to assess their feasibility as food packages by the end users in the actual food sector. Also, the final goals were to the assess the NEWPACK materials towards the food safety regulations, conduct a consumer survey about the perception and attitudes towards the developed material, analyze potential barriers against large scale industrialization and assess the sustainability with life-cycle assessment and biodegradability testing.

Starting point of the material development was polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB) blends, where PLA is from commercial source and PHB made within the project from agro-food waste, i.e. feedstock was potato peels transformed to PHB via bacterial fermentation followed by purification processes. Blending is very cost-effective way to improve technical performance (mechanical and gas barrier properties) of both PLA and PHB. Further mechanical and thermal stability was pursued by adding nanocellulose and nanochitin into the PLA-PHB blends. Benefits of nanocellulose and nanochitin include the high abundance of the raw material (cellulose and chitin), they provide mechanical reinformence already in low amounts without affecting the optical properties of the materials and nanochitin has also antibacterial features. Further antioxidant and antibacterial performance of the NEWPACK materials were aimed by adding natural extracts with known antioxidant and antibacterial activity.

As a summary of the NEWPACK project, a) Two bio-polymer blends/composites were produced at pre-industrial scale and one composite at lab-scale, b) the performance of the blends as food packages were comparable to conventional packaging materials, c) there are some components of the materials that have to be approved by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for their use in food contact: the plasticizer used in all of the films, the new PHB obtained from potato peels and the nanosubstances (nanochitin and nanocellulose), d) with further optimizations the NEWPACK blend without nanoadditives has carbon footprint comparable to PET (polyethylene terephthalate), while nanoadditives with high energy and chemical consumptions in manufacturing process increase the environmental load, e) in general the consumer perception was positive towards the new food packaging materials.
During the NEWPACK project, the following work have been accomplished: 1) market analysis, 2) survey of availability of feedstock in Europe, 3) reports on intermediate and final product technical requirements, 4) up-scaled production of PHB (polyhydroxy butyrate), cellulose and chitin nanowhiskers 5) blending of commercial PLA (polylactic acid) with experimental PHB produced in the project and addition of nanowhiskers (pre-industrial scale production), 6) identification and adding of potential antioxidant natural extracts in the blends including the assessment of the antioxidant/antimicrobial activities, 7) large scale blow-extrusion of films made of materials developed in the project to be applied in food packages, 8) validation of the NEWPACK materials as food packages in the industrial environment, 9) consumer survey, 10) assessment of the material compatibility with the regulations for the food contact materials, 11) economic, value chain and logistic analysis, 12) biodegrability and compostability testing and 13) the final LCA (life-cycle assessment).

Main results of the NEWPACK project are
– 2 large scale NEWPACK materials have been developed and 1 lab scale NEWPACK material
– The performance of the developed bio-based materials as food packages is comparable to traditional packaging materials, based on validations at RIBEREBRO and ARGAL
– Some components of the materials that have to be approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) for their use in food contact: the plasticizer used in all of the films, the new PHB obtained from potato peels and the nanosubstances i.e cellulose and chitin nanowhiskers.
– According to LCA, with further optimizations NEWPACK 0 is comparable to PET (polyethylene terephthalate) with the carbon footprint, however nanoadditives will increase the environmental load due heavy energy and chemical consumption while manufacturing
- NEWPACK films can be considered as biodegradable and compostable.
– Economic assumptions lead to a most probable selling price for NEWPACK film (without nanoadditives) of 4.34 euros/kg that makes the investment break even in 20 years. The price of PLA and the energy consumption influence the economic feasibility most.

NEWPACK has produced 4 trade secrets and new public information in 13 scientific peer reviewed papers. 7 thesis for M.Sc. degree has been produced within the project and 2 Ph.D. thesis are on the way.
Production of polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB) from potato peels in 1500 L reactor tank yielding 50 kg of PHB/batch.

Production of cellulose and chitin nanowhiskers in kg scale.

Hundreds of meters of films produced from of NEWPACK materials.