The significance of functional fillers and nanoscale additives for plastics in the circular economy

Duration: 01.11.2018-30.11.2019
Programme: NANO EHS - F&E-Dienstleistungen
Funded by Austrian Research Promotion Agency, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria
 
Abstract

Plastics are widely used and indispensable materials in industry and everyday life. They have many functions that contribute to addressing a range of societal challenges. In 2016, global plastic production was approximately 335 million tonnes, with 60 million tonnes coming from Europe. A report from the European Commission indicates that the main customer industry is the packaging industry (around 40%), followed by the construction and automotive sectors (around 20% and 9%, respectively). However, the way in which plastics are currently manufactured, used and disposed of, too often miss opportunities towards a circular economy and harms the environment. In Europe, annually around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated. Of these, about 30% recycled in terms of the circular economy. About 39% of plastic wastes are energetically used and 31% are still landfilled. Thus, much of this potential secondary resource is not recycled. For example, in Austria, about 300,000 tonnes of packaging material are annually generated, at which only 26% of these recycled materials being used as regranulates and 74% are used for energetic exploitation. In order to meet the initiative launched by the European Commission in 2015 to promote the recycling of plastic waste, it must also be considered that plastics are becoming more and more “thinner” and “smarter” due to increasing material efficiency or the use of innovative additives and/or the combination of diverse materials, consequently leading to a dramatic decrease in their recyclability. In the framework of the project "NanoAdd", the role of these "Advanced Nanocomposites" in the circular economy of plastics and their impact on the recyclability of the products will be investigated. For this purpose, company surveys on recyclability and specific market shares are carried out. In addition, industry-specific databases and in-depth interviews with experts will be conducted in order to generate reliable data on the quantities of innovative fillers and additives actually used. These data are in turn the basis for material flow analyzes in order to quantify the importance of innovative additives in the Austrian plastics cycle. A stakeholder workshop will be conducted to specify certain plastic applications. In addition, the potential positive as well as negative effects of innovative plastic products are summarized. The project results should be discussed in terms of a functioning circular economy in a final workshop, in order to be able to derive recommendations for action.
 
Role of BioNanoNet:
 
BioNanoNet supports the project by providing expertise in nanosafety and Safe-by-Design, and contributes to the organisation of the stakeholder workshop. 

Moreover, BioNanoNet supports communication and dissemination activities as well as exploitation of the project’s results.