Better Plastics: transitioning to a circular economy

March 2, 2023

A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. This means materials constantly flow around a ‘closed loop’ system, rather than being used once and then discarded. In the case of plastic, this means simultaneously keeping the value of plastics in the economy, without leakage into the natural environment and reducing material usage and re-designs products to be less resource intensive.

BetterPlastics project aims to create new products, processes or services with high technological and innovative content, that contribute to the plastics value chain. At INL, researchers from the Food Processing and Nutrition group are using micro- and nanomaterials to control and improve the composting process of compostable bags. 

Additionally, the INL team has developed food packaging solutions with improved barrier properties. Nanotechnology is the secret behind this novel approach – by incorporating nanomaterials and nanocoatings, researchers are designing new packaging materials with a good level of recyclability and maintaining their barrier properties to oxygen and water vapour.

According to Miguel Cerqueira, “the project BetterPlastics is one of the great initiatives in the area at the national and international levels. Plastic materials are one of the most fascinating materials used nowadays, however, their use is seen by some as a problem for the environment and society. In BetterPlastic, we looked at the challenges and tackled them with innovation and developing new products, processes and systems.