The PHBOTTLE project , financed by the 7th Framework Program, aims to obtain in 42 months a new container for juices, biodegradable and with antioxidant properties (which extends the useful life of the food it contains); a container made from sugars and other residues rich in carbon, nitrogen and oxygen existing in the wastewater from the juice industries themselves.
The project seeks to respond to two of the most pressing current problems in the food industry: the management of its wastewater and the generation of biodegradable packaging for its products.
It involves the application of the latest advances in microencapsulation, biotechnology and packaging technologies. It is working on its development, coordinated by the ainia Technological Center, and an international consortium made up of eight companies and four research organizations.
- In Spain: ainia technological center, AIMPLAS (Technological Institute of Plastic) and Cítricos y Refrescantes, SA
- In Belgium: European Association of Fruit Juices (AIJN) and Omniform, SA,
- In the Netherlands: TNO Technology Center.
- In Bulgaria: Sivel Limited.
- In Portugal: LOgoplaste Innovation Lab LDA.
- In Argentina: National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI).
- In Mexico: Mega Empack SA
- In Brazil: Logoplaste do Brasil LTDA.
- In Honduras: Vanguardia SD de RL.
The project starts from a reality: The juice industries consume a large amount of water, both in cleaning their equipment and facilities, as in washing fruit, etc.
Wastewater that they have to manage and that contains large amounts of organic waste, in the form of sugars, which in turn are a numerous and valuable raw material for the production of bioplastics (plastics generated from organic waste and therefore both degradable).
Fruit juice industries in Europe play an important role in wastewater management, since this type of industry generates up to 129,275 million liters of wastewater.
PHBOTTLE, which is in its initial phase, is identifying microorganisms capable of transforming the organic remains of wastewater into a biodegradable polymeric material (plastic), PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate).
Once this material has been obtained, its properties will be improved, in a second phase of the project, with the incorporation of cellulose fibers and encapsulated ingredients with antioxidant properties, so that this material, when it contains a food, is capable of lengthening the useful life of the same and therefore its days of marketing and consumption.
In a third phase, this material, reinforced and improved in its properties, will be molded and used to make juice bottles. Finally, these bottles will be validated and tested, filling them with fruit juice from the same industry that generates the wastewater. This is how the cycle closes: The generator of the waste becomes the beneficiary of the new container, adapted to the needs of its product.
Another of the environmental objectives of the project is based on an analysis in all phases of the project of the Life Cycle (LCA) of the new container. It involves determining the impact on the environment of the material generated throughout its life, from the raw materials with which it is produced, until the moment in which the final container is discarded, in order to achieve a 100% biodegradable container with minimal environmental impact.
According to Ecoembes, Spaniards recycled seven out of ten domestic packaging in 2011. The minimum recycling rate established by the European Commission is 55%, Spain has exceeded the average reaching 68.3%.
The new material will also be applied to non-food packaging, mainly in packaging for medicines, cleaning products and plastics for the automotive sector.