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ECO sustainable multi FUNctional biobased COATings with enhanced performance and end of life options

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECOFUNCO (ECO sustainable multi FUNctional biobased COATings with enhanced performance and end of life options)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

The environmental and societal awareness on the importance of sustainability and of bio-economy, are generating sensibility for sustainable development of consumables. Additionally there is a growing responsability versus the value and resources wasted due food loss, it is estimated that about one third of all the food globally produced is wasted every year, generating 1.3 billion tonnes of residues- Food losses occur throughout the whole food value chain from farmers to consumers. The European Strategy for Bioeconomy features actions for ensuring food security, managing natural resources, reducing dependence on non-renewable resources, mitigating and adapting to climate change, creating jobs and maintaining European competitiveness. ECOFUNCO aims to bring several benefits to the primary production including food loss reduction, natural resources preservation, fossil feedstock replacement, by-product valorisation and environmental impact reduction. Agro-industrial residual biomass, side streams and food production by-products derived from legumes, melons, tomato (peels and seeds), sun flower seed, may represent rich sources of valuable molecules.

The objective of project ECOFUNCO is to select, extract-functionalise molecules (proteins, polysaccharides, cutin) from highly available, low valorised biomass such as tomato, legumes, sunflower etc for the development of new bio-based coating materials to be applied on two different substrates (cellulosic and plastic based), with improved performances compared to currently available products and at the same time with more sustainable end of life options. These will be used to manufacture the products (bioabsed coatings fro cellulsoe and palstics) that in the second half of the project will be validated in their final final applications. Once the performances of the final products will be validated the overall environmental impact of the entire value chain will be evaluated according to the LCA standard.
The biomass derived molecules addressed in the project such as proteins for gas barrier, chitosan-chitin for anti-microbial activity, and cutin for barrier to water, will be extracted-produced from agro-food biomass. The products developed in the project are in particular: mcl-PHA, antimicrobial-antioxidant coatings based on chitin nanofibrills, and/or chitosan, Microbial Cellulose for cellulose tissues (personal care), paper and cardboard (packaging for fresh products like pasta, tableware), woven and nonwoven (sanitary), plastic substrates (bio-polyesters) for active packaging. Cutin based formulations for coatings water repellent (paper cups, service paper etc.), water vapour barrier (packaging) and protective properties (non-food packaging). Protein- based barrier adhesive for multilayer food packaging (bio polyesters based), with sustainable end of life options (composting, recyclability).
During the first 6 months, ECOFUNCO performed a comprehensive inventory and preliminary assessment report on availability, geographical origin, seasonality, quality, safety and sustainability of the selected crops and biomass feedstock to be used in the project.
At monht 18, important intermediate results are the development and optimisation of different protein, chitin, cutin, active molecules extraction methods based on solvent extraction, MAE, UAE, SFE innovative processes. For each type of residue, the most efficient procedure was selected in terms of active molecuels content and quality and further optimised. As well important achievements were gained for mcl-PHA and Microbial cellulose production.
At present materials for coatings based on proteins for gas barrier, cutin for water barrier and chitin for anti-microbial activity, have been developed on lab scale, and in some cases on pilot scale, preliminary trials of validation have been conducted positively. The overall environmental impact of the entire value chains addressed in the project will be evaluated by LCA analysis, a preliminary study has been started and main hot spots addressed.
Main KER generated at prsent were spotted and partner have expressed their specific interest for their exploitations. These include molecules extraction from biomass, and functionalization, as well as biobased coatings prodcution and application on cellulose and plastic substrates.
On dissemination and communication, the consortium partners have participated to conferences, events, the BBI Stakeholder Forum Projects Day. Dissemination to wider audience has been conducted in high schools and in universities courses.
Two scientific paper were published by partner USFD, and the Consortium is writing two review paper on the state of art on bio-based coatings on cellulose and plastic substrate with particular reference to valorization of agro-food by products derived molecules.
ECOAT support the European transition toward a biobased economy, by developing innovative generation of flexible and multipurpose biorefineries in which a number of innovative conversion technologies are applied in a cascading approach to obtain several high added value bioproducts. Ultrasound Assisted Extraction, Microwave-assisted extraction, Super critical Fluid Extraction Carbon Dioxide are complementary to source biocompounds in multiple ways: a) enhancing extraction yield and therefore cost effectiveness, b) providing the opportunity to use eco-friendly solvents (e.g. water) by improvement of their extraction performance, c) enhancing the extraction of heat sensitive components under conditions which would otherwise have low or unacceptable yields.
The use of biobased protein, cutin and chitin for coating, supported by process control such as inline monitoring, is innovative and meet industry 4.0 approach. Result achieved on laboratory scale are extremely positive and at the end of the project the achievement of relevant products near to be industrialised is envisaged.
The use of cellulose and bioplastics in packaging and health care is limited due to some disadvantages in the properties, among which the barrier to water vapour and oxygen are included, ECOFUNCO will enhance barrier properties while adding anti-microbial performances.
Main outcome of ECOFUNCO will be :
i) Use of biobased resources derived from by-products of food and agro-industrial sector, and of bio-based functional molecules.
ii) Highly performing, economically and environmentally sustainable bio-based coating for plastic and cellulosic substrates
iii) Food packaging based on tray and films with different coating
iiii) tableware (paper plate and paper cup) and personal care cellulose-based prototypes (wipes), coated with ECOFUNCO formulated and validated at pilot level with the aforementioned materials.
ECOFUNCO will contribute to meet the increasing demand for bio-based, active, and biodegradable molecules and polymers to be used for polymer formulations and applications¸ introduce and validate bio-polymers and green additives in packaging, and health care applications¸ growing the bio-plastics and paper based products sectors and thus mitigating climate change
ECOFUNCO will also accelerate the market uptake of these biorefineries products, and of biobased plastic, or cellulose packaging, as well as of the health care products, developing a tailored business model and engaging relevant stakeholder by an online stakeholder platform to access the facilities and test the resulting products.