Read insights for RESTO Pilot Case led by the Italian organisation SINBIOSYS SRL that was selected through FlexFunction2Sustain Open Call.
Society is urgently asking for a more sustainable economy of plastics. In January 2021 the EU started applying an 800€/ton of plastic packaging waste that is not recycled, 4 million tons of new polypropylene (PP) are used for disposable packaging every year, 30% of that (1.2 M tons) is used for food packaging and less than 7% of this plastic is recycled for a total cost that reaches 3.2 trillion €. This situation is causing a high demand from EU converters in the packaging sector for high-quality and food-grade recycled plastics. The separation of multi-material streams into highly pure mono-material is the major issue that hinders the development of an efficient and affordable circular economy for plastics.
The novelty of our approach to tackle the problem of plastic sorting and to reach the target of mono-fractional composition of plastic waste is the use of silicon quantum dots (SiQDs). They are invisible inks: colourless under sunlight, and brightly emitting upon UV excitation. The colour of the emission can be tuned by changing the nanoparticle size. Each plastic material (or grade within the same material) can then be coded with a different combination of markers, producing a so-called luminescent fingerprint.
Within the FlexFunction2Sustain project, we aim to:
- Asses LCA of luminescent marked polymers packaging, in collaboration with SimaPro;
- Test high throughput compounding of nano-marked polypropylene at Meteor facilities;
- Asses comprehensive qualification of plastic waste down to the complete technical data sheet of the recycled materials;
- Leverage the food packaging plant and food contact laboratory to achieve FCM characterization with toxicological analysis of our nanomaterials and imaging of nanomaterial-cell interactions.
The final prototype will be a polypropylene packaging batch (flexible pouches and thermoformed cups) with SiQDs embedded that will enable efficient sorting. The prototype shall meet full recyclability in the flexible PP stream food contact expectation, and improve sorting efficiency.
In order to execute this Pilot Case, SINBIOSYS is using the combined services of FlexFunction2Sustain consortium partners IPC – Centre Technique Industriel de la Plasturgie et des Composites, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP, Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Sonnenberg Harrison Partnerschaft.
Stay tuned! Further details on RESTO Pilot Case development will follow.