B4Plastics: building a sustainable future based on smartly redesigned plastics
B4Plastics is a Polymer Architecture company, catalysing the introduction of novel biomaterials, and growing them from niche to bulk applications. B4Plastics has collaborated with Catalyze on two successful Eurostars submissions, as project leaders in the BIOPACK project, and as partners in the MycoMaterials project. The BIOPACK project was awarded €660K by Eurostars. We heard from Director, Stefaan De Wildeman, about the impact of BIOPACK, making breakthroughs in eco-plastics, and their aims for the future.
A new solution for water-soluble packaging
In the water-soluble packaging market the prevalence of plastic packaging derived from fossil feedstock poses significant environmental concerns due to its non-biodegradability. To address this issue, the EU has proposed measures to promote sustainable practices for plastic disposal, including the adoption of biodegradable alternatives.
In the BIOPACK project, B4Plastics and project partner, LacTips, are developing a novel water-soluble polymer compound to make packaging material for household applications that is bio-based and meets EN13432 standard biodegradable criteria.
Stefaan comments, “The feature of real biodegradability is not yet found as a standard in the water-soluble packaging market. There is a common misconception that if your polymer solubilizes in water it is gone. With the current materials used for water-soluble packaging applications, the polymer is still there as a swimming polymer backbone, you just cannot see it anymore! As a result, you can run into the phenomenon of clogged filters in dishwashers. But even worse, the dissolved polymer travels towards the downstream wastewater treatment plants, where it may not be fully captured.
“We want to develop a novel material with all the benefits of the existing products for dishwasher tablets and other packaging uses, while also containing the extra sustainability features of being fully biobased and biodegradable in a time span of only a few months. Forget about clogging or persistence in nature!”
B4Plastics go beyond the state-of-the-art
Entering the water-soluble packaging market, BIOPACK’s novel biomaterial will go beyond the state-of-the-art in next-generation materials made from eco-friendly sources using sustainable processes. Other existing water-soluble packaging is sourced from finite resources like crude oil and petrol, or biobased alternatives that are not yet industrially available for detergent or dishwasher packaging, like starch- or cellulose-based derivatives, and bio-derived polyethylene.
The project will combine the strengths of B4Plastics’ and LacTips’ existing unique technologies; TriggerPlastics and CareTips, respectively. TriggerPlastics is B4Plastics’ highly tuneable platform technology due to the polymer architecture process, while CareTips is a material sourced out of caseinate derivatives, which meets requirements of dishwasher tablet packaging applications.
As Stefaan points out, by utilizing the complimentary expertise of B4Plastics and LacTips, they will be able to develop a product ready to be seamlessly brought to market:
“After this project we will have film products that can simply be dropped into the current value chain, even broader than dishwasher tablet films alone. LacTips is thereby a partner with a lot of affinity to the water-soluble packaging market, whereas B4Plastics is higher-up the value-chain as designers and makers of polymers.”
Collaborating with Catalyze on a second Eurostars winning project
The BIOPACK project marks B4Plastics’ second Eurostars success with the support of Catalyze, in addition to the MycoMaterials project, which is developing revolutionary technology for the circular production of mycelium-based articles, like leather substitutes. Their accomplishments in the program have enabled B4Plastics to embark on two R&D projects and create new products that can further support the mission to build towards a sustainable future based on smartly redesigned biomaterials.
Stefaan describes the importance of Eurostars:
“Eurostars qualifies as the Champions League of the European Innovation Community. Without Eurostars support this risk-taking R&D would not happen, or certainly not happen to the extent that we really have a plan to enter the market two years after the end of the project. What is happening in both Eurostars projects has disruptive character in the respective markets. For MycoMaterials, the greenhouse gas savings are even somewhere in the 90% range compared to the conventional leather industry.
“The Eurostars program allows us to overcome incremental innovation. And that is what the Green Deal needs! That is the enthusiasm, but also the responsibility, I feel on our shoulders as the winner.”
Stefaan comments on the collaboration with Catalyze:
“Catalyze brought us in this position: without Catalyze it would have been much harder. You took care of us throughout the application process. Catalyze opens the door to all kinds of funds and has also a lot of funding opportunities on the radar. More to come, let’s say.”
Innovating for a wide range of eco-plastic solutions
B4Plastics’ commitment to innovation extends beyond packaging, as they actively participate in multiple EU-funded international R&D projects, where they contribute to the development of materials for various applications, showcasing their versatility and dedication to sustainable solutions.
Moving forward, Stefaan has big ambitions for B4Plastics:
“I see that the plastics market struggles to open the transition in its full glory. B4P’s underlying technology adds increased biobased and renewable content, with the smartest end-of-life currently available in the market – while offering the functionality that is valued in the application. In that sense, we are for instance also working in the direction of coatings, like biodegradable coatings for fertilizers and seeds.
“After five years of operations, B4Plastics has overcome the start-up phase and finds itself as a scale-up. With this new chapter opening, structuring the company becomes more and more important, without killing the start-up spirit which excels in agility and speed. With a dynamic market awaking from doubt and old habits, B4Plastics has made unique preparations to make a big impact. The transition is helped by financial support, but even more by pioneering new products and habits in the way we consume polymeric materials. This pioneering attitude is what we need, because this planet is in danger if actions continue to lag behind.”
Pictured: Stefaan De Wildeman, Director of B4Plastics