29 January 2020

Apply for the Raw Materials and Circular Societies Prize!

Are you implementing new business models fostering repairing, reuse and sharing? Then, the Raw Materials anc Circular Societies Prize might be of interest to you. This call is specifically focused on ideas supporting the efficient implementation of the Circular Economy in Europe focused on the topics of repair, reuse, sharing economy/sharing platforms, and circular products. The deadline to submit the applications is next 31 May.

The contest is open to any legal entity (including natural persons) or group of legal entities established in an EU Member State or in a country associated to Horizon 2020. The criteria to score the applications will be their circularity impact – innovations should clearly demonstrate a connection to material circularity as well as how they contribute to increasing the share of secondary materials and reduce the use of virgin materials -; technical excellence, IP status – the innovation should be relevant to the topics -; market needs and replicability – large market size and customers willingness to buy are positively evaluated and the innovation should also be clearly able to be replicated in different European regions -; quality of the team, and quality of the development roadmap.

First screening phase will be performed by an expert panel composed by EIT RawMaterials, ICLEI, RREUSE and VEOLIA (POP Up Programme) to assess the alignment of the application with the underlying objectives of the Prize. The best 5 applications will be invited to pitch their ideas in a ceremony to be held in October 2020.

For more information, visit here.

12 December 2019

European Green Deal: ‘Plastic packaging in EU reusable or recyclable by 2030’

All plastic packaging products in European Union markets are to be reusable or recyclable by 2030, according to the text of the EU Green Deal unveiled yesterday by the European Commission.

Unveiled in Brussels by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the European Green Deal sets the tone for a new growth strategy in the European Union, the central tenets of which are resource efficiency, the competitiveness of the bloc and net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The proposal by the Commission also sets out specific policy levers for the circular economy in the EU, under the guise of a Circular Economy Action Plan - due for March 2020 - with a sustainable products policy to “support the circular design of all products”.

According to the communication, the action plan will “prioritise reducing and reusing materials” before they are recycled, in addition to setting measures so that environmentally harmful products are not placed on the EU market. “Extended producer responsibility will also be strengthened,” according to the document – but no details are given on how this will be done.

Europe-wide action is slated for all sectors, but especially for textiles, construction, electronics and plastics.

On plastics, the Commission says that follow-up to the 2018 plastics strategy will focus in particular on “measure to tackle intentionally added micro plastics and (the) unintentional release of plastics” (i.e. from textiles or tyre abrasion).

Crucially, the document says that the new European Commission “will develop requirements to ensure that all packaging in the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable manner by 2030”.

There will also be a regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics, in view of the impending growth of production of plastics made from renewable materials.

The European Green Deal is online.

For more news and updates from Brussels over the coming months, follow us on Twitter!

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!