Plastic ban in Germany – EU project researches alternatives
"A good step," says Prof Dr Walter Leal, project coordinator of the EU BIO-PLASTICS EUROPE project. "But now it is important to develop alternatives and to analyse and optimise the entire life cycle of products and supply chains."
Alternatives in demand"The ban on plastic shopping bags is a step in the right direction, because plastic shopping bags in particular end up in a high proportion in the trash," says Leal, who is also head of the Research and Transfer Centre for Sustainability and Climate Impact Management at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). "However, we need alternatives for all types of plastic. This is why we want to develop new materials with the BIO-PLASTICS EUROPE project: Bioplastics that are biodegradable and pose no danger to humans or the environment."
Such bioplastics are currently being researched in the EU project managed from the HAW in Hamburg. For example, scientists are currently investigating leached bioplastic plasticisers for their toxicity. First results are expected shortly.
Three challengesThe three main challenges in the bioplastics supply chain were identified in advance: the need to overcome the dependence on food crops for raw material production, improving the energy balance of polymer processing in biorefineries, and creating a sustainable framework for waste management.
The researchers from the 22 participating partners from European nations and Malaysia are working together on sustainable strategies and solutions for biobased plastics. The project aims to develop and implement sustainability-based solutions for the production and use of bio-based plastics. "This is the only way to maintain and improve the environmental quality of land and sea in the long term. At the same time, we are supporting the EU plastics strategy, including recycling management," says Leal. "BIO-PLASTICS EUROPE is not only designed as a research project, but is also to make very concrete proposals for implementation that are also affordable and economical."