The circular economy is an approach to minimize the use of our resources. It aims to re-introduce into our production system what we generally consider as waste. This is crucial as the annual “Earth Overshoot Day” shows: On 29 July last year, humanity had already used up all natural resources that Earth can regenerate in one year. We consume our planet’s resources way too rapidly to be sustainable.
The world of packaging is one of the main challenges in this regard. In an increasingly globalized world, where goods travel far and wide, packaging plays a key role. The increasing use of multi-materials, often with plastics, improves the safety and conservation of products but it also causes major problems in terms of recovery and recycling. Proper design and collection strategies need to be developed for multi-material packaging to overcome their negative drawbacks.
Bio-based, bio-degradable and compostable materials offer a way out and can help to improve the circular economy and become an excellence in facing the economic and environmental challenges of the future. Committed to a greener economy and sustainable packaging, a small bunch of companies, researchers and environmental activists have joined forces to tap this potential. They work together to radically change our way of packaging. In the BIOCOMPACK-CE project they started off by analysing options for introducing new materials based on waste paper and bio-plastics. They assessed the performance, quality, reliability and safety of these so-called biopolymers against sustainability criteria and researched crucial information in fields such as packaging legislation and certification.
Using their newly gained knowledge, they started consulting packaging companies on more sustainable biopolymer options. They created the digital platform “Paper-Bio Pack”, on which they offer their findings and learnings for introducing bio-degradable packaging materials. Information there ranges from material sciences to legislation, certification and business adaptation. They also ran business support events and trainings to help companies more directly to discover the business opportunities related to the world of new materials – and were overwhelmed by the high interest which vastly exceeded expectation.
They also brought the business sector together with other packaging and waste management stakeholders, including universities, waste collection managers, operators of recycling plants, large-scale retail distributors and consumer representatives. This way, the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project BIOCOMPACK-CE, became the starting point for a new European network of packaging businesses and public organisations that strongly believes that #cooperationiscentral to introduce a circular economy and to reduce the presence of plastics in our lives. All this under the lead of the Slovenian National Institute of Chemistry together with ten partners from six central European countries.