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Innovative Biodegradable PLA Plastic for an Increased Range of Packaging Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BlockPLA (Innovative Biodegradable PLA Plastic for an Increased Range of Packaging Applications)

Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2016-12-31

There is an increasing trend towards replacing conventional fossil-based plastics with bioplastics. Even though the cost to manufacture these bioplastics continues to go fall, the volumes of bio-based plastics produced are still very low compared to fossil based plastics. Improving the properties of bioplastics was considered as a key route to promote the exploitation of new end-use applications. In general, the main challenge in the industry is to help the global economy become more environmentally sustainable: 

- Less than 7% of plastic is recycled. 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth €79.5 €113.9 billion annually, is lost to the economy. 
- Biodegradable plastics only make up approximately 0.2% of plastics produced in 20143. All other plastics end up polluting or needing to be recycled. 
- Despite efforts to develop PLA specialty grades with superior properties, all the developments carried out have led to a decrease in PLA transparency, flexibility and biodegradability. In addition, they are not yet approved to be used in food packaging. 
- There is worldwide demand for more efficient products to reduce energy, resource consumption and dependency on limited fossil resources. The plastic industry takes up roughly 8% of oil production.

Our company, ADBIOCOMPOSITES, has developed an innovative, biodegradable PLA grade named BlockPLA which has enhanced technical properties: oxygen and water vapour barrier, thermal stability, transparency and flexibility. BlockPLA solves the drawbacks that Polylactic Acid currently shows for packaging applications. In addition, BlockPLA has already been protected internationally and ADBIOCOMPOSITES has the exclusive exploitation licence. BlockPLA provides an innovative solution for today's major sustainability challenges.

The main action of the Phase I project is to develop a feasibility study on the potential introduction of this new technology in the market, including a technical feasibility study, stakeholder assessment, market study, and the elaboration of a business plan.
At phase I, ADBiocomposites undertook a Feasibility Study to evaluate this innovative BlockPLA technology. This study was focused on three key areas:

a) Market analysis,
b) Technical feasibility analysis, and
c) Business plan.

Market analysis. We carried out an in-depth market analysis with key market players to find out what the problem/need is at source, what interest, acceptance; and therefore, the market potential that exists for BlockPLA among plastic manufacturing clients. The results show that there is a demonstrated market interest for this new technology due to its approach to customer needs.

Technical feasibility analysis. This study has been focused on evaluating the technical feasibility of BlockPLA grades at semi-industrial scale, analysing its technical parameters. Key technical parameters have been established and characterized. After this technical characterization, we validated the viability of specific technical parameters on specific market applications: food, cosmetics and polymer industry.

Business plan. A business plan has been elaborated. It has included the study of the business model, competitive advantages, market and customer analysis, value proposition, commercial and marketing strategy, and financial analysis. Moreover, this work has been structurated taking into account the results of the coaching plan
BlockPLA has also a positive general influence on the three pillars of sustainability.

- Economic. The project will increase the size of the company in terms of economic value with a significant increase in the net present value of the company. The production of new products will generate new jobs into the company. ADBiocomposites is focused on developing disruptive technology in the packaging sector; and therefore, BlockPLA brings the opportunity of increasing our core business model more focused on commercializing this new additive for the production of nanostructured PLA grades of advanced properties.
- Social. In a wider societal implication, the BlockPLA project will have positive impacts as a consequence of reducing the use of limited petroleum resources, as well as the product-life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions or carbon footprint of the products. In addition, BlockPLA is biocompatible and not toxic solution. The use of BlockPLA will help European plastic manufacturers and polymer producers to be more competitive, and create new jobs as well as create a sustainable industry.
- Environmental. BlockPLA technology is more carbon neutral than conventional petroleum-based plastics, reducing either product-life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions or carbon footprint of the products. PLA releases the least amount of carbon dioxide during production, PP releases 6.3 times more, Styrofoam releases 9.26 times more and PET releases over 10 times more. This is related to the EU objective to push a Bioeconomy and Circular Economy Strategy . This Strategy provides the resource base for a vast amount of economic activities. The bioeconomy and by extension, biobased materials, fill a need of the circular economy: to replenish a small but vital amount of resources that cannot be recirculated sustainably.

Addtionally, it should be noted that BlockPLA is aligned with both European and global challenges on:

1. Environmental sustainability
- Reduction of the use of limited petroleum resources: Reducing petroleum feedstock in plastics by just 10% saves 280 million barrels of oil per year, reducing CO2 emissions by the equivalent of the CO2 sequestered by 250 million acres of Forest.
- Reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions: Using PLA in place of oil-based PET results in 75% lower greenhouse gas emissions even if both end up in landfill.
- Reduce energy and resource consumption: PLA produces 50% less energy and 10 times less emissions in comparison to standard thermoplastics like PET and PP .
- End of life: Using biodegradable and compostable plastic products such as (biowaste) bags and packaging or cutlery increases end-of-life options. In addition to recovering energy and mechanical recycling, composting (organic recovery / organic recycling) becomes an available waste management option.

2. Environmental regulations
A political and economic framework plays a central role in the market penetration of biobased plastics products:
- Relevant EU policies: Reducing Marine Littering. According to the Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament, a plastic bottle takes 450 years to decompose , and it is estimated that plastic waste causes €11billion worth of damage to marine ecosystems alone .
- Low-Carbon Economy: The European Commission has developed carbon leakage provisions and promotes low-carbon technologies through the Sustainable Industry Low Carbon programmes.
- Eco-Design: The EU legislation on Eco-design and energy helps eliminate the least performing products from the market, significantly contributing to the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency objective.
- Circular Economy: According to European Commission, a cascading use of renewable resources should be promoted together with innovation in new materials, chemicals and processes in a Circular Economy.

Relevant global policies
The Paris Agreement and the outcomes of the UN climate conference (COP21). The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.