Single-Use Plastics, an urgent issue and a priority for the EU

As the name implies, single-use plastics cannot be reused as it is. Plastic as we know it today has become a real danger for our planet: impact on biodiversity, ocean pollution, overproduction, and more. According to the United Nations, today, marine litter represent about 85% plastic waste, and at least 8 million tons are floating in the ocean every year. With a total of 86 million tons currently, marine plastic litter is violently endangering the sealife. With only 9% of all plastics being recycled, according to the non-profit organization Plastic Oceans International, it is becoming urgent to react and to think differently about plastic.

The Directive (EU) 2019/904 on single-use plastics was adopted in June 2019 with the aim to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment, and on human health, as well as to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials.

To facilitate its application, the European Commission decided to publish a Single-use plastics Guideline, targeting on the 10 single-use plastic litters most commonly found on Europe’s shores as food containers, cups for beverages, cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, c, plastic bags, cigarette butts…

In the form of yogurt cups, plastic dishes or even bags, single-use plastics are an integral part of the average consumer’s life. While it is impossible to completely stop our plastic consumption, we can make it more sustainable for the environment by changing the very components of the plastics we currently use.

In this context, NENU2PHAR project was created to develop research around bioplastic. Bioplastics are biodegradable plastic materials, whose components are not fossil-based and produced from sustainable biomass sources, such as plant-derived materials, corn starch, woodchips, algae, etc.

The project decided to focus on the development of a competitive value chain for PHA bioplastic products. PHAs, or Polyhydroxyalkanoates, are biodegradable polyesters produced naturally by bacterial fermentation of sugars and lipids. The 17 partners of the project hope to be able to generalize the use of these biodegradable and bio-based polyesters.

With the aim to develop new ways to produce PHAs based on microalgae biomass, Nenu2phar is studying the end-of-life of PHA formulations based on biodegradability, compostability or recyclability of the bioplastics formulated.

Through different applications like plastic cups and stand up pouch for food or roll-on packaging for cosmetics products, NENU2PHAR will contribute to help the industry developing materials to enforce the Directive 2019/904 on Single Use Plastics.

More information on the project