Eco sustainable multifunctional biobased coatings with enhanced performance and end of life options
Cellulose is the most widely-available renewable material on Earth. Using cellulose-derived materials to replace fossil-based plastics in a range of consumer products, such as disposable food products or personal care items would make a considerable contribution to Europe’s environmental ambitions.
The challenge that needs to be overcome is the current limitations of cellulose in these roles. It tends to make a poor barrier and is hydrophilic. Currently, therefore, cellulose products are combined with polyethylene to provide properties more suited to these uses. However, the presence of polyethylene inevitably impacts product recyclability and therefore undermines the environmental benefits.
However, developing coatings for cellulose and bioplastics that help provide the required properties can overcome these current shortcomings. The ECOFUNCO project aims to identify and develop these coatings from readily-available, low-valorised biomass such as tomato processing residues, legumes and sunflower press cakes.
The overarching objective of the ECOFUNCO project is to select, extract and functionalise molecules such as proteins, cutin, polysaccharides, polyphenols, carotenoids, fatty acids from readily available, low valorised biomass sources. This will be used to develop new bio-based coatings for application on two different substrates, specifically cellulosic and plastic based. This will deliver materials for food and personal hygiene use that will offer better performance than currently-available products as well as delivering more sustainable end of life options.
Within this, there are a number of specific objectives. The ECOFUNCO concept will:
- Deliver a significant step in making the efficient use of bio-based material resources and their economically viable production a reality.
- Upgrade agro-food waste into viable alternative materials to those derived from fossil-fuel polymers.
- Develop energy efficient processes for developing these bio-based coatings based on ecological approaches and green chemistry.
- Promote innovation and competitiveness while decoupling economic growth from environmental impacts.
- Support development of eco-technologies and promote foreign investment in environmental technologies, with consequent benefits for jobs and economic growth across the EU.
- Reduce the environmental impact of packaging and packaging waste.
The ECOFUNCO project aims to deliver a number of impacts. It seeks to:
- Create a number of new cross-sector interconnections within the bio-based economy between different sectors such as the agro-food industry and the coatings and biopolymer sectors. This in turn will accelerate the development of several new value chains and will:
- Set the basis for new value chains; the ECOFUNCO process technologies will enable new product applications, deriving from food and agro-waste biomass as raw materials. The new value chains will be based on applying the bio-based coatings to a range of so-called Fast-Moving Consumer Goods.
- Develop three new types of bio-based materials in the form of coatings: an antimicrobial coating for sanitary tissues and foodpackaging, a water-repellent coating for food containers and utensils and a barrier adhesive for multi-layered packaging.
- Validate a process technology, taking it from Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2-3 to TRL 5.
- Reduce the environmental impact of packaging and increase sustainability by replacing the current non-renewable coatings with renewable ones. Sustainable sourcing of the raw materials will further contribute to these benefits.