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Strategies of circular Economy and Advanced bio-based solutions to keep our Lands and seas alIVE from plastics contamination

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SEALIVE (Strategies of circular Economy and Advanced bio-based solutions to keep our Lands and seas alIVE from plastics contamination)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

Today we produce in one year the amount of plastic that was produced between 1950 and 1975 and it is expected to double again over the next 20 years. These plastics will remain where they are discarded and only a small percentage of plastics is recycled.
It is difficult to estimate the exact amount of waste that ends up in the open environment, but it is significant. In addition, the input of small plastic particles, ‘the unseen’, is estimated to be larger than the visible. Moreover, up to 13 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans every year, with about half of all marine items found on European beaches due to” single use”. The damage to marine environments is estimated to at least $ 8 billion per year globally.
Around 50 years ago, the growing awareness and concern over plastic pollution led to interest in making plastics that have the potential to degrade in the environment (Guillet, 2002).However, some plastic products may be either difficult or impossible to collect after use and, as a result, there is a high risk of these products ending up in the environment.
In this sense, SEALIVE aims to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (including land and sea environments) and to be focus on the development of more efficient resources. A new sustainable bioeconomy is emerging providing opportunity for bio-based and biodegradable materials production.
Regarding society, SEALIVE project expects to create more than 30 direct job positions because of the growth of the companies participating in SEALIVE, and the indirect creation of 120 job positions in pilot territories. The project aims at standing as a reference to be disseminated and widely used in Europe and beyond.
SEALIVE project aims to develop innovative business models for advanced bio-based plastics directly supporting the Plastics Strategy set by the EC. To achieve this goal SEALIVE will implement sustainable solutions based on novel biodegradable polymers from natural occurring materials, such as starch from microalgae, to avoid plastics ending-up on land and sea. Along the SEALIVE project we will join the ambition of biopolymer producers with cutting-edge processing technologies, designing the materials by thinking in their best end of life channels. As a result, new bioplastics solutions will be upscaled and demonstrated by 8 end-applications with high potential for pollution reduction on soils and water media. Finally, to guarantee the adoption of SEALIVE solutions all these developments will be supported with policy, pre-normative standards, and several training actions in several European countries.
The work performed during the 1sr reporting period could be summarize in the following points:
Business Strategy:
1- The definition and explanation of the methodology used throughout the project to create business models.
2- To identify current technical specifications of the 8 demonstrators which will be developed in the project and to identify best route to formulate new materials according with the expected requirements.
Engineering of novel bioplastics formulations
1- The optimization of microalgae production to obtain starches has been started during the first reporting period however the expected productivity hasn´t reached yet.
2- Different organic wastes have been tested (milk waste, coffee sludge, paper sludge, pork bowel, petrochemical sludge) to produce PHAs and selected the most promising waste.
3- Different biobased and/or biocompatible stabilizing agents for formulations have been tested such as natural antimicrobial, and other natural additives as stabilizers against thermo and photo oxidative degradation of biopolymer formulations and to improve processability.
4- The research of fluorescent markers based on microalgae extracts to improve the recyclability of biobased materials and to avoid cross contamination is on-going.
Processing technologies:
1- First pilot scale trials of formulations for 3 demonstrators (fishing crates, fishing nets and oyster mesh bag) have been performed using Seabird grades based on biodegradable polymers such as PHA, PBS and PBSA as monolayer materials. Research for single use cutlery is already started and tested some grades coming from ADBio at laboratory scale.
2- Preliminary trials to test processing technologies such as elongational flow mixing, advanced twin screw compounding and multilayer single polymer coextrusion have been carried out using commercial grades until WP2 materials are in process to be obtained.
A preliminary analysis of the policy and institutional environment relevant to bioplastics (EU and international) recommendations and information has been done and a preliminary report have been presented. An identification and analysis of current standards for biodegradation and ecotoxicity has been done and 114 standards have been identified.
The reached results according to identified impacts are:
- Prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution by 2025: SEALIVE project has identified potential innovative sustainable business models for the project’s demonstrators, as well as, it has been examined the different value chains available to create circular business models. Through the validation of demonstrators SEALIVE will ensure pollution reduction of soils (ex: biodegradable mulching films), a reduction of packaging waste by implementing the organic recycling and also the reuse with reusable fishing crates. Furthermore the 50% of marine litter is provoked by single use plastics. SEALIVE will develop grades according to marine and freshwater biodegradability and will test the safety of the solution in the environment.
- Deliver solutions with work starting at TRL 5 and achieving TRL 6 or higher, where technological innovation is involved: The production of biopolymers from microalgae and organic wastes has been reach at laboratory and pilot scale, however during this 1st period the consortium has not reached the expected production capacity. The consortium will be continuing working to produce raw materials and researching in innovative additives and processing technologies to validate new bioplastics solutions.
- Deliver results in a form that allows for efficient feedback into policymaking in research, innovation and technology, in particular in the EU Plastic Strategy: SEALIVES consortium is actively working to map all relevant EU and related policies and measures that directly address bioplastics. Some members are cooperating by reviewing of existing policies, new policies, policy implementation, etc., and participating at different policy events.
- Contribute to the development of EU-harmonised criteria for biodegradability and a sustainability framework that increase market transparency and improves waste management practices on land and sea: SEALIVE consortium during the 1st reporting period has reviewed current standards for biodegradation and ecotoxicity and compiled this information in a public report available on webpage. SEALIVE members are participating in several standardization groups such as ISO/TC 61/SC 14, CEN/TC 261/SC 4/WG 2 and even at ASTM level. This includes organic recycling, home composting, and developments for marine environment.
Films from PLA
Colorimetric indicators