NEWS

2 December 2019

‘Testing shows that consumers approve of CIRC-PACK products’

As we near the end of the CIRC-PACK project, we put our prototype innovations to the test with consumers around Europe. For a rundown of what people thought, we spoke with Belén Ramos of Spanish consumer organisation OCU, the CIRC-PACK partner that ran the testing.

 

CIRC-PACK has produced new bioplastic products made from renewable resources. What are these products that we have made for market?

CIRC-PACK is working on packaging alternatives for several products.  That means producing renewable and compostable plastics for coffee capsules, single-use and multi-use plastic bags and shampoo bottles, as well as flexible film for sanitary pads, and even plastics for “food contact materials” such as trays that we use for fresh produce.

But we are also improving the design of cardboard boxes that contain (powder) laundry detergent – by replacing the inner plastic layer for a cardboard one that has similar barrier properties. There has been a lot of work done by our research and industry partners!

 

Consumer testing is obviously an important part of the project, one for which OCU is responsible. What did you test, how did you do it, and with whom?

To see what people think, we tested these products on consumers in six European cities: Brussels (Belgium), Kartal (Turkey), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), Milan (Italy) and Rijeka (Croatia). We selected 30 consumers per city; they were representative in terms of age and gender, and normally make the shopping decisions in the household.

What did we do? We showed them two types of packaging – conventional plastics and bio-plastics – for each product, without telling them in advance which was which. We asked them to rate features such as visual appearance, resistance, ease of use, the ability to compress (for recycling, of course), and which bin the packaging should be thrown in to. And with some of the products we did additional practical tests to find out what people felt about: ease of opening, smell and even the ‘readability’ of the label.

When testing products with consumers, you only reveal the composition/ type of packaging at the end of the interview. People were then asked which they preferred in terms of sustainability and whether they were even willing to pay more for bio-plastic packaging.

 

So what do people think of CIRC-PACK products versus the traditional plastics?

In general, alternative plastic packaging is well accepted by consumers, as you can see in the summary video. And indeed for many of the products, our new bio-plastics have better scores on appearance, ease of use and resistance. However, weaknesses were still identified in some prototypes – hence the reason we conducted these consumer tests now; so we could still make corrections before the end of the CIRC-PACK project. For example, the tray for fresh produce was thought to be less resistant than the conventional plastic tray. That’s something we have gone back to work on. As for the new coffee capsules, they were more visually appealing and perceived as more resistant. And in general, our consumers considered the two types of bio-plastic bags – multi-use and single-use – to be more resistant, while also being easier to open.

 

What does the consumer testing tell us about the future of bio-plastics compared with conventional plastic in the market?

People expect – or hope – that new plastics will have at least the same technical properties than the packaging they are replacing. When a bag made from bio-plastic is regarded as less resistant or more difficult to handle, this product will have less of a chance of success when marketed.

However, our testing showed us that consumers approved the CIRC-PACK innovations and, often, bio-plastic packaging was the preferred option when people didn’t know which was which. And when informed about the products’ environmental properties, the majority of interviewees chose bio-plastics over traditional plastics (indeed most of the time they were willing to pay a little more for the new packaging). But when there is not such a difference between the two types (i.e. the detergent box or sanitary pad films), we find that people are less motivated to spend more.

The summary video is on OCU's YouTube channel, with more information online (in Spanish).

28 November 2019

CIRC-PACK goes to Croatia, sees Mi-Plast expertise in action

On 26 November 2019, the CIRC-PACK team held its latest meeting in Croatia, with the release of project results dominating the discussions, as well as a visit to the facilities of project partner Mi-Plast.

CIRC-PACK went to the Croatian town of Opatija to lay the groundwork for the closing stages of this Horizon 2020 project before it comes to an end in April 2020. With less than six months to go until the project is wrapped up, the pressure is on to finalise production and testing of new bio-based plastic innovations – and then release the project results into the world.

Hosted by Croatian SME and project partner Mi-Plast, the meeting focused on some promising updates from the project’s three “Demo Cases” (the pillars of the project since CIRC-PACK began back in 2017). These demonstrations mean three things: producing plastics from renewable resources (led by Italy’s Novamont); producing eco-friendly packaging designs (led by Dutch company Bumaga); and designing enhanced sorting and recycling processes (led by AITIIP of Spain).

In Opatija the team heard from all three Demo Case leaders, with some timely input from the Spanish consumer body OCU – fresh from testing CIRC-PACK products on consumers from around Europe (CIRC-PACK innovations versus the same products made from conventional plastics).

The team also made an important visit to the Mi-Plast facilities in the town of Rijeka, where the company has been producing, distributing and recycling polyethylene packaging since 1993. A family-run SME, Mi-Plast is especially focused on materials destined for the household, construction and agriculture sectors, but with an increasing involvement in European research and innovation projects under the Horizon 2020 and other frameworks.

After a successful set of meetings and echanges, CIRC-PACK’s attention now turns to the 17 March in Brussels, Belgium, where ICLEI Europe will host a Breakfast at Sustainability's for CIRC-PACK collaborators and stakeholders from around Europe.

For more updates, follow CIRC-PACK on Twitter!

11 November 2019

CIRC-PACK reveals barriers to circularity at Ecomondo workshop

On 7 November 2019, CIRC-PACK’s Italian partners were in full swing at the Economdo green technology expo in Rimini, Italy, delivering  a roundtable and workshop on the circular economy of the plastic packaging value chain.

Featuring our partners FATER, Novamont, RINA and Centro Ricerche Fiat, the events took conference-goers closer to CIRC-PACK innovations, but also explored the key barriers to a circular economy for plastic packaging.

The roundtable and workshop made for intense discussions with conference-goers, who identified both legislative barriers and a lack of economic and financial incentives as the main barriers to a circular economy for plastic packaging.

On the flipside, 25 per cent of conference-goers told CIRC-PACK that economic and financial incentives were clearly the main driver(s) towards progress on circularity. But nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of workshop participants also said that campaigns to raise awareness among consumers were a major factor for progress with plastic packaging.

The CIRC-PACK project runs until end of April 2020, so stay tuned over the coming months for projects results as we: shocase new bioplastics from renewable resources; create innovate eco-designs for plastic packaging, and; present new innovations in enhanced sorting and recycling.

For more, watch the video on YouTube!

7 October 2019

EU plastics projects join forces – “multiplier effect” to boost circular economy in Europe

Twenty innovation projects joined forces today to boost European Union efforts towards a circular economy for plastics. The ‘Plastics Circularity Multiplier’ group will communicate to policy makers, the public and industry on a range of EU-funded innovations – innovations that aim to bring plastic materials into the circular economy of the future and create new business opportunities and jobs in Europe.

Launched on 7 October in Brussels, the newly formed group will pool resources and expertise to “multiply” key messages from the ecosystem of projects that receive funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. More than 300 projects dealing with plastics in a circular economy have been supported by the FP7 and Horizon 2020 programmes – part of the EU’s global push to invest in circular economy solutions to achieve the goals of the 2018 EU Plastics Strategy.

“The investment that the EU is making in the circular economy is on such a scale that it’s vital to communicate what that means for the environment, citizens, businesses and cities across the continent,” said Alexandre Dangis of DEMETO, the project leading the group.

“With the initial participation of 19 projects, the Plastics Circularity Multiplier will look to boost our impact, but also identify the regulatory barriers to be overcome and the investment needed if we are to put in place a truly circular economy for plastics in the EU,”  added Mr Dangis.

The first round of results by the Plastics Circularity Multiplier will come in the summer of 2020 – earmarked for a Brussels conference showcasing synergies among the participant projects.

The Plastics Circularity Multiplier will go on to open up its activities and participation in September 2020 to all ongoing EU projects, whether in Horizon 2020 or in the new Horizon Europe framework programme.

As Mr Dangis explains, “The group aims to complement existing resources set up by the EU institutions, such as the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, the EASME Project Data Base, and the ‘Innovation Radar’ – all designed to engender a veritable ecosystem of EU investments in the circular economy and innovation.”

The initiative is managed by EuPC, as Communication and Dissemination leader of the DEMETO project, with the participation of other Horizon 2020 Projects in the field of plastics circularity:

CIRC-PACK, Circular Flooring, CREAToR, DECOAT, FiberEUse, HARMONI, iCAREPLAST, ISOPREP, MultiCycle, NONTOX, PlastiCircle, polynSPIRE, PUReSmart, REACT, REMADYL, REPAIR3D, SMARTFAN and TERMINUS.

Life project REPOLYUSE has also joined the initiative as guest participant.