UPLIFT: Sustainable Plastics for the Food and drink packaging industry

Illustration of a seal and a whale in a part of the ocean polluted with plastic waste.

UPLIFT is a project funded from the European Commission in the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program. The overall concept of the project is to boost the development and validation of novel enzymatic and microbial processes for the sustainable use of plastics in food and drinks packaging applications, which will be tested and evaluated from a technical, environmental and socio-economical point of view, thereby contributing to the development of a more circular European plastic packaging industry.

Thanks to the consortium composed by 15 partners from 8 European countries, UPLIFT will address the full plastic packaging value chain, from monomer production and packaging material manufacturing, to end of life solutions such as reusing, recycling, and upcycling. The work that is being carried out includes the evaluation of the socio-economic, health, quality, regulatory and standardization issues around currently used practices.

The Objectives

The main objective of UPLIFT is the development of a circular plastic packaging value chain in the food and drinks sector by applying novel eco-design strategies and biochemical upcycling technology routes. To this end, the vision of the project revolves around two main axes:

1) to combine bio-depolymerization of plastics and bio-based building blocks to obtain smarter and renewable plastic materials, which will enable the effective upcycling of plastic packaging waste streams;

2) to fully integrate the bio-chemical upcycling technologies within already existing and more mature recycling processes and fermentation processes. All these prototype materials and processes will be tested in a relevant operational scale close to expected performance (TRL 6).

The target materials

UPLIFT will explore the selective bio-depolymerisation of various polymers commonly contained in plastic packaging materials, thus overcoming the challenges encountered in current recycling processes. Some of the target materials are:

PolyestersPETpoly(ethylene terephthalate)
PBATpoly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate)
PLApoly(latic acid)
Multilayer materialsSeveral layers of polyolefines, cardboard and aluminium

UPLIFT wants to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable polymers sent to disposal or discharged into the environment by implementing efficient eco-friendly recycling strategies.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 953073.

Picture credits: acib