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Funded by the EU's Horizon Europe program, the upPE-T project is working on transforming the upcycling of plastic. In April 2024, all partners gathered in a two-day meeting to discuss progress and agree on the next steps to ensure the project's success. The upPE-T project's goal is to support Europe's journey towards achieving climate neutrality by 2050 by advocating for biotechnology and plastic as allies.

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Disrupting the Plastic Recycling and Plastic Packaging Industry

Much of Europe's plastic is dedicated to food packaging, accounting for 60%. Despite the growing recycling rates in the last few years due to regulations and other initiatives at national and regional levels, there is more that we can do. To tackle this challenge, the upPE-T project introduces an approach that involves transforming consumer PE and PET packaging waste into a variety of biodegradable and recyclable bioplastics (PHBVs) using cutting-edge enzymatic technology. This innovation targets food packaging production and holds promise for potential applications.

Sustainability goes beyond being environmentally friendly.

The upPE-T project uses the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment methodology to assess sustainability through an ecological, economic, and social lens. This evaluation considers financial considerations and negative impacts that affect decision-making within the project. Some factors analyzed are energy and water consumption, raw materials, and transportation. By evaluating its operations from these three angles, the upPE-T project aims to achieve a holistic assessment of sustainability. Maria Aiello, Digiotouch’s Sustainability Expert, oversees these sustainability studies.

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Enhancing Environmental Awareness: Deep Tech Meets Sustainability

Communication and education are key to achieving our desired impact. Therefore, one of the goals of this project is to enhance awareness among European citizens regarding recycling practices for food and beverage packaging. Digiotouch expertise plays a role in this initiative by introducing the upPE-T VR app that shows all project processes through immersive videos. Additionally, Digiotouch has developed a MOOC platform that serves as a hub for students, educators, universities, industry professionals with experience, and content creators to expand their knowledge and skills in sustainability, as in other sectors.

Developing new standards and certification systems

Developing new solutions can present various challenges, especially when the goal is to ensure its acceptance in the market. Standardization and certification play a role in building trust and credibility among users of these solutions. The upPE-T experts are working on developing new certifications and standardization proposals. 

Turning an innovative idea into reality

Any visionary initiative should evolve from ideation to implementation. Digiotouch and the upPE-T Consortium are collaborating on crafting a business strategy and exploitation roadmap for upcycling PET into PHBV. The objective is to explore how PET recyclers, plastic manufacturers, and packaging companies can seamlessly incorporate this solution into their operations and circular economies.

The Incredible Impact of International Collaboration

This tremendous endeavor has been made possible by the involvement of 20 partners hailing from 10 European countries. Among them are seven small-to-medium enterprises, a corporation, five universities, four research and technology organizations, a municipality, a consumer group, and a standards development body. These European collaborators bring expertise in fields such as chemistry, microbiology, logistics, communications, sustainability, business management, and, of course, digital innovation. We are confident that our collective efforts will contribute significantly towards shaping a sustainable tomorrow.

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