The aim of the LEAP project is to develop the next generation of advanced functional packaging that incorporates the biomass of
non-native invasive plants and enables the production of new high- performance packaging solutions. The project focuses on the problem of industrial packaging of heavier industrial products, for which there are currently no alternatives to EPS packaging. The project is therefore necessary as it focuses on sustainable transition to circular economy based on biodegradability, reducing the consumption of raw material resources and at the same time addressing the problem of recycling waste from non-native invasive plants (Directive (EU) 2019/904).
The LEAP project directly addresses the challenges of the EU strategy for plastic packaging waste, in terms of replacing it with more recyclable materials (Directive (EU) 94/62/ES). The fundamental challenge in this area is the transition to more sustainable resource management, which, in addition to products with a low ecological footprint, also includes a comprehensive system for the collection and re-use of local renewable raw materials (Slovenian Development Strategy 2030). Cellulose-based packaging (molded pulp, cardboard, etc.) already offers solution for sustainable packaging in the food industry, but these materials have poorer cushioning and protective characteristics, which is why they cannot readily be used as an alternative to EPS to design the packaging for heavier and complex industrial products.
To address these challenges the first step to a low-carbon and circular packaging economy is to develop the innovative green technology for the design of industrial packaging made from alternative cellulose fibers. Since cellulose materials are far from being considered as an ideal cushioning material an open source expert system will be developed that will make it possible to design cellulose-based protective packaging in such a way that it achieves its targeting cushioning and protective performance. In addition, the project will bring other ancillary benefits by using non-native invasive plants as raw material for pulp, which will reduce the demand for wood based virgin pulp.
The effects of the project will be reflected in the establishment of a new value chain, which will operate on the principle of a closed loop and will enable the Eco-design of industrial packaging. However, the environmental effects will be the most important, as studies have shown that replacing plastic containers and packaging with cellulose-based packaging can lead to life-cycle CO2 emissions reduction when considering raw material extraction and production, manufacturing, transport, use, and disposal. This is consistent with the European Circular Economy action plan, which is an important pillar of the European Green Deal.
Since the project results will be demonstrated directly in practice, they will serve as a benchmark for the development of new business models even after the project will be completed. Thus, the project will benefit all (companies, research institutions, etc.) with a tendency to introduce the most advanced green packaging technology to the worldwide markets. Through the communication, which will cover the entire vertical: from elementary and secondary schools, faculties, companies and other interested public, education on the importance of the circular economy and environmental aspects of the use of alternative cellulose fiber packaging will be provided.
The project will not generate revenue and is exclusively intended to demonstrate and disseminate the importance of environmentally friendly bio-degradable packaging.