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New innovative REcyclable and BIo-COMpostable film for flexible packaging

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - REBICOM (New innovative REcyclable and BIo-COMpostable film for flexible packaging)

Período documentado: 2020-02-01 hasta 2020-12-31

The REBICOM project began as a fundamental part of the company's policy of achieving sustainable materials within a circular economy.
Plastics have become an environmental problem, and therefore also a social one. Companies dedicated to plastics sector are obliged to seek solutions that minimize this impact on ecosystems, developing sustainable materials that meet the current needs of the films used as flexible packaging, which are safe, lightweight, secure, recyclable, reusable, which meet the requirements of demand in terms of functional barriers that protect both food and non-food products, from pollutants or pathogens that can generate health warnings or deterioration of products.
Initial objective was to replace current petroleum-based polymers used for the manufacture of plastic films with plant-based polymers with the ability to rapidly biodegrade or compost. IFS has been working for years on the development of films with this type of plant polymers. These films have a number of disadvantages, which make them unviable within the objectives set by the company.
These films, in many cases, are considered compostable by industrial systems. At present, it has been proven that it is not feasible to biodegrade and compost industrially manufactured films, both in terms of cost and volume.
- Vegetable polymer films cannot be considered recyclable and reusable, and would therefore be outside the scope of the circular and sustainable economy.
- Vegetable polymer films use primary food resources for the manufacture of plastics.
- Vegetable polymer films are expensive, very heavy, due to their high density, and do not meet the requirements of a flexible packaging film.

REBICOM (REciclable, BIodegradable and COMpostable) is a technological project to create what we call, intelligent plastics. These plastics will cover the current needs required for industrial processing, safe for contact with food, recyclable, reusable.
- In the case of improper management of them and if end up in the environment in contact with bacterial activity, an enzymatic reaction would be activated that would convert them into biodegradable in a short period of time, avoiding contamination by plastics.
- In the case of proper management, they can be mixed with other standard polymers of the same family for recovery, recycling and reuse without affecting the final result.
Several tests have been carried out so far, both at laboratory and industrial level, as in the final product of flexible packaging and postal window film, with excellent results:
- to determine the ideal extrusion conditions and technically evaluate the specifications regarding the mechanics of the films manufactured for the REBICOM.
- to improve optical and odor parameters
- to test on biodegradation, composting, recyclability, ecotoxicity, absence of heavy metals, barriers measurement and characterization.
- to parameterize manufacturing conditions of films for different applications, in different thicknesses, of prototype films.

Samples of two prototype products were also sent to end customers for controlled end product testing.

The original idea of IFS REBICOM project was to add an enzymatic load to the polymeric matrix of a bioriented polypropylene film.

For some years now, research has been carried out into the use of enzymes in the composting of plastic materials in landfills, so that these enzymes, under composting conditions, with microbial action, would initiate the depolymerization of the macro molecules of plastics of fossil origin and thus initiate the accelerated biodegradation and composting of these materials.

IFS REBICOM project has been overcoming the initially posed challenges to introduce an enzymatic load during the manufacturing process of the films, so that, once these materials are used in their different applications, in the event of mismanagement and if they reach the environment in contact with microorganisms, the enzymatic load is activated and the spontaneous biodegradation of the material is initiated.

Main achievements are:

• Creating a masterbatch, with a polyolefin base and an enzyme, protein and peptide load, with the potential to be added to a plastic film formulation.
• Eliminating the smell and colour in the film, generated by the enzyme load.
• Eliminating the percentage of moisture in the masterbatch, due to the hygroscopy of the organic part of the product.
• To be able to produce, in high capacity lines and various thicknesses, films with the technical characteristics necessary for their use, without the need to modify the final production processes.
• To Maintain the final density of the product, thus avoiding increasing the volume of plastic used.
• To create a biodegradable film that is environmentally friendly, free of heavy metals and suitable for food contact.
• To achieve a plastic film that is 100% biodegradable and recyclable, unlike current compostable plastic materials, which are not considered recyclable or reusable.

The range of products developed in IFS REBICOM project are currently being promoted with great interest in the sector, and will be offered within an acceptable price range and with the necessary official certifications
The main innovation of the REBICOM project was to achieve the industrial scale production of plastic films, with polymers of fossil origin, with the characteristic that, under conditions of bacterial biological activity, they become biodegradable and compostable through an enzymatic process, maintaining the main characteristic to be 100% recyclable and reusable, suitable for contact with food and with low environmental impact.
The REBICOM project aims to introduce in Europe an innovative technology, related to the manufacture of biodegradable and compostable plastic films, for the use of general packaging and laminated film, based on a resin of fossil origin that meets the requirements of the regulations European standards for compostability and biodegradability.

• REBICOM packaging will be compostable, recyclable and biodegradable according to European standards.
• Plastic containers will not use polymers from agricultural food crop production.
• REBICOM products are 100% recyclable and reusable.

This technical development will have a huge impact on the current concept of commonly used plastics. Biodegradable and compostable plastics will be available, 33% lighter than current polymers of plant origin, with the consequent reduction in volumes. The films of the REBICOM project will not require changes in the current production methods of the processing companies and will cover the requirements of plastic films as before. And, most importantly, they will remain recyclable and reusable.
This project also includes the development of a BOPE film, which due to the characteristics of this product in terms of mechanics, would solve the current problem of complex films made of various polymers, which when combined become non-recyclable like combinations. PE + PP, PE + PA, PE + PET for the PE + BOPE complex, which would meet the necessary technical specifications, and with REBICOM technology, in addition to being 100% recyclable, they could also be biodegradable and compostable.
The initial objective, to achieve the manufacture of plastic films, in high-capacity productive processes, with an enzymatic load to achieve an accelerated biodegradability of these materials, has been achieved.
Industrial proof of postal envelope with REBICOM film window
Industrial test Flow pack with matt REBICOM film
Semi-elaborated reels of REBICOM films
Industrial test flow pack with gloss REBICOM film
Industrial test Flow pack with REBICOM polyethylene film