Albstadt-Sigmaringen University (ASU) is a state owned University for Applied Sciences in the south of Germany. ASU is home to the Sustainable Packaging Institute, SPI for short, whose research focus is sustainable packaging concepts.

SPI´s mission is to provide competent and holistic support to all packaging stakeholders along the packaging life cycle in the life science industry on their way to a more sustainable, circular bioeconomy. The SPI pursues its mission with its six thematic fields:

  1. Biogenic raw materials
  2. Process technology and process design
  3. Functional materials
  4. Smart packaging (active and intelligent Packaging)
  5. Preservation and packaging
  6. Bioeconomy and sustainability (concepts, assessment and perception)

In the BioSupPack project several of the above mentioned thematic fields come into play.

ASU’s role in BioSupPack includes leading the Sustainability assessment Work Package. Sustainability assessment can be defined as a process of identifying, measuring and evaluating potential impacts of e.g. innovative bio-based packaging from brewery by-products and can thus serve as a tool for decision-making and guiding activities. It is a broad assessment approach in which sustainability is often composed of the triad of an ecological, social and economic dimension.

Often a life cycle analysis (LCA) for ecological aspects, life cycle costing (LCC) and or social life cycle analysis (sLCA) is carried out for a wide sustainability assessment. By analyzing aspects of the above-mentioned dimensions of sustainability within these methods, several beneficial and adverse aspects of for instance a (newly developed) product can be revealed which is why those methods are used in the sustainability assessment in BioSupPack as well. By combining the results of the individual methods, conflicts of objectives between the dimensions of ecology, social issues and economy can arise, which needs to be reflected critically and holistically to consciously deal with such trade-offs.

With the aim of understanding the social aspects even more holistically, ASU will also conduct consumer perception and acceptance studies in the BioSupPack project. In this way, it is intended to ensure that the bio-based packaging developed during the BioSupPack project meets consumer demands from the outset and thus contributing to competitive packaging alternatives with increased market acceptance.

In order to go further beyond the state of the art, ASU will also consider the functionality of the developed bio-based packaging in BioSupPack in the sustainability assessment. Bio-based packaging often does not yet have the same barrier properties as petrochemical-based packaging. However, in the case of packaging, barrier properties are crucial when it comes to ensuring product quality and safety. In the BioSupPack project, high-performance packaging concepts are being developed for the product categories food, beverages, cosmetics and home care, all of which are to be adequately protected by the new packaging. Reduced barrier performance can lead to shorter shelf life and therefore increased product wastage might occur. In a holistic sustainability assessment, the consideration of such interconnections could influence the assessment result significantly, as the packaging is often associated with far fewer potential environmental impacts than the packaged good.

Therefore, ASU will also be involved in the functionalisation of the bio-based packaging to be developed in the BioSupPack project to enhance their performance. For this purpose, ASU applies chemical grafting, a method for nanoscale surface functionalization, by utilizing fatty acids which can be derived from renewable sources. The effectiveness of the applied method as well as the resulting properties for the packaging are also measured on site in ASU’s laboratories in the model factory in Sigmaringen, Germany. In addition to the necessary equipment for permeation analysis also mechanical testing, to name just a few of the possibilities, the model factory also houses, the SPI technical center for the production and processing of packaging materials as well as the laboratories for consumer perception studies.

The SPI at ASU aims to shape a more sustainable future through collaboration between stakeholders along the life cycle of packaging, for which knowledge transfer can be a prerequisite in a first step and can thus make a decisive contribution. Therefore, in the BioSupPack project, ASU is leading the task of training activities to raise awareness, to increase the understanding and acceptance of more sustainable packaging concepts, in the project and beyond.

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