The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy acknowledges the usefulness of plastics for the economy and our daily lives, but points out that plastics' use fails to capture the economic and environmental benefits of a more 'circular' approach. The progressive substitution of consumer products derived from fossil fuels, at all steps along the industrial value-chain, is crucial to successfully decarbonise our society. Most plastic (>98%) is produced from non-renewable sources. This is more than 400 million tonnes globally, which could become 900 million tonnes by 2050, i.e. 20% of oil consumption. The majority of plastic cannot be recycled and contains toxic additives. Some plastics are bio-based; however not all are recyclable, reusable or biodegradable.
Annually, Europe produces 78 million tonnes of plastics, 40% of is used for packaging and mainly for packaging food, drinks and other consumer products with a short shelf-live. Packaging that cannot be recycled ends up in landfills or is burnt in, a process that releases large amounts of CO2 and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.
The challenge is to develop technologies to deal with the upcycling of plastics for food and drinks packaging. Upcycling in this context means transforming them into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value, ensuring that micro-plastics are avoided. This will allow the sustainable recycling or biological degradation in accordance with existing and novel technologies, standards and certification schemes.
Proposals will address as many as possible of the following aspects:
- Expand the potential of current technologies and materials for the manufacturing and design of bio-plastics that are recyclable and/or bio-degradable;
- Exploit known or develop new biotechnologies, based on enzymes or enzyme combinations and microorganisms, for improved recycling or biodegradation of plastics;
- Develop novel standards and certification schemes applicable to packaging materials made from recyclable and biodegradable bio-plastics;
- Include Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) elements and gender aspects to improve consumer attitude and behaviour with respect to purchasing and recycling food and drink packaging;
- Take a systemic approach and involve cooperation among actors in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer, and from research to policy makers.
Projects should perform an analysis of the state of the art to avoid duplications and overlaps with past or ongoing research, including projects funded by the Bio-based Industries Initiative and the Circular Economy calls under H2020.
Clustering activities to capitalise on synergies with relevant projects selected under this topic and topic CE NMBP 26-2018 is encouraged.
Proposals submitted under this topic should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the Introduction to the LEIT part of this Work Programme.
Activities should start at TRL 3 and achieve TRL 6 at the end of the project.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- 60% food and drink packaging is upcycled by 2030;
- A viable roadmap to prove that by 2030 60% of the plastics still to be used for packaging of foods and drinks with short-shelf life will be produced from renewable sources;
- Contribute to the increase in new and upgraded waste recycling facilities designed to facilitate recycling via biotechnological or biochemical methods;
- Increased awareness among European citizens of products and materials upcycling capacity;
- Novel standards and certification schemes to be applied together with market pull measures such as public procurement and tax exemptions;
Indicators and metrics, with baseline values, including demonstration activities should be clearly stated in the proposal.
This topic is in support of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Projects selected under this topic as well as projects selected under other topics in H2020 supporting the Plastics Strategy are strongly encouraged to participate in joint activities as appropriate. These joint activities could take the form of clustering of projects, participation in workshops, common exploitation and dissemination etc. The proposals are expected to demonstrate support to common coordination and dissemination activities without the prerequisite to define concrete common actions at this stage.
 SC1-BHC-36-2020 Micro- and nano-plastics in our environment: Understanding exposures and impacts on human health; SFS-21-2020 - Emerging challenges for soil management; BG-07-2019-2020: The Future of Seas and Oceans Flagship Initiative: [C] 2020 - Technologies for observations; FNR-06-2020: Oceans Innovation Pilot for the Blue Economy; FNR-05-2020: Supporting the food safety systems of the future; CE-SC5-24-2020: Improving the sorting, separation and recycling of composite and multi-layer materials; CE-SC5-28-2020: Develop and pilot circular systems in plastics, textiles and furniture sectors; CE-SC5-25-2020: Understanding the transition to a circular economy and its implications on the environment, economy and society; CE-SC5-29-2020: A common European framework to harmonise procedures for plastics pollution monitoring and assessments; CE-SC5-30-2020: Plastics in the environment: understanding the sources, transport and distribution of plastics pollution ;
Illustration Photo: Wagner Pizza production line (credits: © Nestlé / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))