P. Guerrero, A. Etxabide, I. Leceta, K. de la Caba

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
The University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has been certified Campus of International Excellence by the Spanish Ministry of Education. Euskampus project displays priority specialisation areas, based on three axes:
1. Sustainable Ecosystems and Environmental Technologies
2. Innovative Processes and New Materials
3. Healthy ageing and life quality

Our research group, BIOMAT-BIOdegradable and Renewable MATerials, works in the development of green materials for packaging. The objective of our research is to improve materials properties, mainly the ones related to food packaging purposes, in order to prepare useful materials which could contribute to reduce the environmental problems related to waste management produced by the food industry.

Taking the above into consideration, the research carried out by BIOMAT could be related with the three axes defined in Euskampus Excellence Project. Firstly, our research intends to introduce more friendly materials from the environmental point of view in relation with the use of raw materials obtained from renewable resources, mainly derived from biomass, like proteins and polysaccharides. Furthermore, these materials are compostable, so they can be used to produce compost from the materials prepared in our labs when they are discarded after use. Moreover, we assess life cycle analysis(LCA) of the products prepared in our labs in order to compare the environmental impact of our products and the ones based on commodity polymers from petroleum-derived sources.

Secondly, control and prediction of materials properties will be important tasks to carry out in the research projects in which the group takes part in order to advance in the field of food packaging. For that, we are involved in the optimization of samples composition and preparation methods. In the first case, we only use natural polymers, accepted as food ingredients, in order to prepare useful materials for food industry. Regarding preparation methods, there are two processes that can be carried out in order to obtain materials for food packaging: wet and dry processes. Our research group is working in the optimization of conditions for dry processes in order to be able to use techniques available in the plastic industry, which is of great importance to obtain economically viable products.

Thirdly, consumers are more likely to purchase products that are ecofriendly packaged. Moreover, the rise in the average age of the population and in the number of single person households in developed markets is influencing new products. Consumers are looking for products that are easy to use, healthy, and have good price/quality ratio. Although these trends are global, they impact on the packaging market, which is an essential component of modern living, so our research aims to produce green materials which help to progress in more sustainable development.