Circular economy is hot topic at AIMPLAS

At AIMPLAS, the circular economy was the topic of 157 projects, 856 service requests, and courses and conferences that attracted nearly 2,000 people in 2020!

One of the societal challenges being addressed by AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, in its activities is the drive to make progress towards the circular economy, a production model fully supported by the European Commission that aims to meet citizen concerns on environmental sustainability. This focus on the circular economy is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 13 on Climate Action. 

More than 157 R&D&I projects

As part of its R&D&I activity, the AIMPLAS technology centre presented 157 projects in line with the circular economy in 2020. A number of demo samples produced as a result of completed projects are on display in the centre’s new showroom, including the results of the PLACE Project on green public procurement; mobile device holders and bags made from commercial packaging by the LIFE RECYPACK Project; a composter and lane dividers for cycling lanes manufactured with marine litter within the framework of the REPESCAPLAS Project; yoga sportswear (with trackers to verify the source) made from fishing nets recovered by the OCEANETS Project; trays for food packaging and wind turbine blades obtained by the KARMA Project; and waste recovery in the poultry industry. Also on display in this unique space are other demo samples for the circular economy, such as new compostable pots manufactured from renewable sources, specifically agricultural waste; eyelet rings, developed by the Green Ring Project, made of recycled material for securing tarpaulins and signs; and hot-melt adhesives obtained from municipal solid waste by the PERCAL Project.

Growing demand for services

Consumer interest in the circular economy is clearly reflected in company requests to develop and certify the environmental sustainability of their products: 856 requests for service and technical assistance were received in 2020.

Last year, AIMPLAS took part in the development of the new Recyclass certification for recycled plastic products because it has the only expert auditor in Spain qualified to carry out audits for this certification. This new certification scheme provides proof of the traceability of recycled material from the source, as well as the exact content of recycled material in each product, which helps increase consumer trust in products’ environmental sustainability. In the Latin American market, the AIMPLAS technology centre was accredited for the first time by the Entidad Mexicana de Acreditación (Mexican accreditation body) as a testing laboratory under NMX-EC-17025-IMNC-2018 (ISO/IEC 17025:2017) for standard anaerobic biodegradation tests on plastic materials in composting conditions, biodegradation in soil and disintegration in composting.

Circular economy infrastructure leader in the plastics sector

In order to meet this growing demand, AIMPLAS has expanded its facilities with a new building with laboratories and a pilot plant, built in accordance with environmental sustainability criteria and the first laboratory building in Spain to receive BREEAM certification on sustainable construction. In addition, AIMPLAS purchased new equipment for carrying out research and providing services involving the synthesis of new polymers, mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

AIMPLAS is also coordinating a major circular economy project designed to drive the green conversion of the industry. Promoted by the EsPlásticos Spanish plastics platform with a budget of about €270 million, the project also involves the creation of a circular economy technology centre for the plastics sector.

Training and events

The focus on circular economy criteria was also evident in AIMPLAS training activities, as reflected in a total of 30 courses with 475 attendees and the participation of 233 companies, resulting in 472 training hours and a satisfaction rating of 8.62. The technology centre organized the first edition of its course University Expert on Bioplastics and Biocomposites, a university-accredited qualification of the Universitat de València, while also preparing a new course for 2021, Chemical Recycling of Plastic Materials.

In terms of events and workshops, AIMPLAS, with CICLOPLAST, organized the 5th edition of the Workshop on the Circular Economy and the 7th edition of the International Seminar on Biopolymers and Sustainable Composites. The two events attracted a total of more than 500 people. Preparations also began for a new international seminar on plastics recycling to be held in November. During the COVID-19 health crisis, a total 838 people participated in four online workshops and other discussions. Outside the technology centre, AIMPLAS experts participated in and spoke at 57 circular economy events in 2020.

Strategic partnerships

Last year, AIMPLAS continued its work on raising awareness about the importance of the environmental sustainability of plastics within the framework of the EsPlásticos platform and through a new edition of the children’s story “Ona the Shark and the Magic Ribbon” in Catalan and English and translated into sign language. An audiobook version is also available in three languages. In line with its commitment to SDG 14 on Life Below Water, the plastics centre signed the UN Global Compact’s Sustainable Ocean Principles and adhered to the Portuguese Plastics Pact.

This commitment to the circular economy earned the technology centre recognition in the form of awards such as the 2020 Quality Innovation Award for the OCEANETS Project and the Missions València Award for social and urban innovation in the city of Valencia for the URBANREC Project, which was also a finalist in the GO ODS Awards in the SDG 11 category.

For more information go to www.aimplas.net.

Written by Kevin Gambrill

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