Having secured €12 million in funding, a research consortium led by Ireland’s Athlone Institute of Technology and Sigma Clermont, in France, has launched two new projects aimed at solving the end-of-life issues surrounding multi-layered plastic packaging. Known as Terminus and BioICEP, the two four-year projects will transform what is now a linear process into a process in line with the circular economy.
Together, the projects aim to develop technology to turn petroleum-based plastic waste into individual building blocks from which new plastics can be made that will not impact the environment.
Each project will focus on a specific aspect of the plastics life cycle. The Terminus project froms the starting point in which new biotechnology will be developed specifically designed to separate out the layers plastic from multi-layered plastics and packaging. This will consist of a range of smart enzyme-containing polymers with triggered intrinsic self-biodegradation properties, acting as adhesives or tie layers in the design and manufacturing of multi-layer plastics for food and non-food applications.
The technology will be applied to biodegradable PUR-based adhesives for adhesive lamination and extrusion coating lamination, and polymers and tie layers (PBS, PLA, PPC or PCL) in blown extrusion. When triggered, the layers of adhesive holding the plastics together will be dissolved by the enzymes. The BioICEP project will focus on the individual layers of plastic from the Terminus project and break these down further into their chemical constituents in a process known as depolymerisation using a combination of green mechano- chemical and enzymatic technology.
The technologies developed within the scope of the two projects will provide a route to upcycling multi-layered plastics and using their constituent molecules to create products that are perpetually recyclable, to deliver full plastics circularity.
The consortium participating in the BioICEP and Terminus projects comprise 28 research institutes and companies in 15 countries. The projects are funded through Horizon 2020, EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and the National Science Foundation of China, supported by Enterprise Ireland.