The production of high performance biodegradable plastics from non-food organic raw matter is the ambitious objective of new H2020 Project USABLE Packaging. It aims to develop a whole set of building blocks and biodegradable polymers that can be processed in laminated and multilayered films. The final objective is to produce complex packaging materials with matching properties to current commercial plastics, issued from petrochemical pathways.
CSIC coordinates this project where Biogroup is represented by Prof. Almudena Hospido and Juan M. Lema, and researchers Thelmo Lú and Miguel Mauricio. A key element of USABLE Packaging (acronym Unlocking the potential of Sustainable BiodegradabLe Packaging) is the participation of stakeholders of the whole bioplastic production chain, from raw material suppliers to final packaging users, including biomass transformers, bioplastic producers and responsible of recycling, thanks to a 25 member consortium, coming from 12 European countries.
The challenges inherent to the production of high performance bioplastic are multiple. First, residue biomass must be converted in volatile fatty acids, the substrates that microorganisms use to accumulate bioplastics. This accumulation process must be done under controlled conditions to achieve the requirements as mechanical properties, oxygen and water vapour barrier properties, etc. Finally, bioplastic must be processed and combined to match the characteristics requested by final users.
Biogroup participation focuses on three aspects:
1) development of mathematical models to predict the transformation of biomass into volatile fatty acids and ultimately into bioplastics;
2) the production of bioplastics by an innovative route: the accumulation by halophile bacteria in a saline medium;
3) the holistic evaluation of the environmental impact of all the production and after end-of-life treatment by life-cycle assessment methodology