EU Call for Proposals: Develop bio-based packaging products that are biodegradable/ compostable and/or recyclable
Currently, most of the packaging used in a wide variety of applications in different market sectors – including food, pharmaceuticals and clothing – is not recyclable. It consists mostly of multi-layer packaging, with each layer composed of different polymers that perform specific functions, making it technically non-recyclable. The end-of-life phase for this packaging, therefore, is either incineration or landfil[l].
Moreover, the compostable bio-based packaging that is currently available mainly ends up in industrial composting facilities. This is because other biological waste treatment processes like anaerobic digestion and home composters are generally not suitable for most of the current compostable polymers.
Novel alternative solutions should ‘eco-design’ packaging products to avoid the incineration and landfill routes at their end-of-life phase, rerouting them instead towards approved and accepted applications, where they can add value without adding an environmental burden.
The specific challenge of this topic is to make the end-of-life phase for packaging significantly more sustainable.
Design new processing systems for functional bio-based packaging products that are reusable, recyclable, and/or compostable and biodegradable, as an alternative to the current identified benchmark products.
Proposals should address the production process, including the necessary improvements to lamination and coating steps to obtain the target end-products and their specifications.
Proposals should prove that the target packaging products are recyclable or compostable/ biodegradable in various environments to reduce their overall environmental footprint. This will make their production and use more circular.
The scope also includes multi-layer products. In that case, proposals should consider the feasibility of producing multi-layer/single-polymer solutions, instead of multi-layer/multi-polymer solutions, provided they meet all required functionalities and outperform state-of-the-art alternatives for sustainability.
Along with the environmental sustainability of the developed solutions, other factors – such as innovation in functionality and production – are considered an asset for the proposals. Any potential hazards associated with the developed processes and products should be analysed to ensure that the products comply fully with REACH1 legislation and other toxicity requirements, safety requirements and any relevant EU legislation.
The industry should actively participate to demonstrate the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that the concepts can be deployed more quickly and scaled up to apply industrial-wide.
Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained. This step will need to involve consumer organisations, together with recyclers and composting plant representatives.
Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental impacts of the developed processes or products using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018) .
Proposals should also include an economic viability performance check (value chain and market analysis) of the developed products and processes, along with an analysis of social impacts where applicable.
If relevant, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards.
The technology readiness level (TRL)  at the end of the project should be 5. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL.
 The Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, effective since 1 June 2007.
 The LCA may focus on a set of critical issues early on to steer the development process in the right direction. In this case, it is essential that this selection is carefully explained in the proposal in order to allow for expert assessment. See also in the introduction.
 Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/wp/2018- 2020/annexes/h2020-wp1820-annex-ga_en.pdf
Illustration Photo: Biodegradable Packaging Kingdom Fresh Tomatoes (credits: Produce Marketing Association / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))