PolyBioSkin, boosting biopolymers for high-demand, skin-contact applications

PolyBioSkin (1)

The whole PolyBioSkin Consortium and the Project Officer representing the Bio-Based Industry programme, Ms Agata Pieniadz, met in the facilities of its coordinator IRIS for the KickOff meeting of the project on June, 28-29.

The skin is the largest tissue in the human body and it is our first natural barrier against external agents. Personal care/sanitary, cosmetic and biomedical products are designed for direct contact with the skin and represent a very large market, ranging from high performance for general functionalities/low-cost/high volume scale to high performance for specific functionalities/high-cost/small volume scale. To date, these products are largely dependent on fossil-based polymers.

For instance, current diapers are non-biodegradable as they are composed of acrylic-based absorbent layers covered by a polyolefin-based topsheet. The global baby diaper market was USD 39.97 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach USD 64.62 billion in 2022, growing at an estimated CAGR of 6.2% from 2014 to 2022. If we add adult diapers to this, the market is even more significant. Disposable diapers dominate the global market with nearly two-thirds of the total revenue in 2014 and are expected to witness a CAGR of 5.4% over the forecast period (to 2022). From a sustainability perspective, the Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that about 18 billion diapers end up in landfills each year.

Another example are cosmetics, a high-volume market that results in non-recyclable skin-contact products. The facial masks segment has shown the fastest growth among all the personal care products over the past four years, with a current global value estimated at approximately $4.5 bn (with key regions in China worth US$ 1.8 billion, USA at $ 1.4 billion, and the EU at US$ 1.1 billion), and a very healthy average growth rate between 30 and 39%. Looking across the global skin care market, the facial masks segment is dominated by Asia. In the face of very aggressive competition, product differentiation has become a major challenge for all brands, while one of the fastest growing influences on consumer purchasing behavior is a sustainable reputation.

In the biomedical field, wound dressings represent high performance and high value products allowing the regeneration of damaged skin, where bioresorption and biocompatibility play a key role. The global market for wound dressings and medical devices for wounds was valued at €2.2 billion in 2012. An annual growth of 5.1% per annum is forecast, with predictions for the global market to reach €3 billion by 2019.

With a view to leveraging the enormous untapped potential for the use of bio-based polymers in skin-contact product applications, PolyBioSkin will advance the research and development towards the industrial exploitation of renewably-sourced bio-based polymers that offer unprecedented antimicrobial, antioxidant, absorbency, and skin compatibility properties and functionalities for skin protection and sustainability in three strategic target markets: sanitary, cosmetic and biomedical.

 

A high impact project for the bio-based polymer market

Today, the European bio-economy sectors are worth €2 trillion in annual turnover and account for 22 million jobs in the EU, which is 9% of the EU’s workforce. Bioplastics have been designated a lead market by the European Commission, expected to grow at CAGRs of 17.5% or more between 2016-2020. If we look at European consumption of bioplastics, current estimates place Europe as the leading consumer of bio-based plastics, followed by North America, whereby EU consumption was valued at ~256k tonnes in 2015 (i.e. 32.5% of the global consumption of 787k tonnes in 2015). Yet, despite this growing bio-plastics industry, considering Europe’s share of bio-plastics production, we lag behind Asia (75%) and Latin America (12%), with only a 7% share.

PoliBioSkin-KOM (2)

 

POLYBIOSKIN will focus on two main classes of synthetic bio-based polymers relevant for next generation bio-based industry (biopolyesters, such as poly(lactic acid) and poly(hydroxyalkanoates), being fully renewable and biodegradable, while natural polysaccharides (cellulose/starch and chitin/chitosan), highly available from biomass or waste food, are chosen for their peculiar properties, such as absorbency and anti-infectivity.

Over a 36-month competitive work plan, PolyBioSkin will develop and validate:

  • a fully biodegradable diaper provided with a skin-compatible surface enriched with anti-microbial and anti-oxidant functionalities to prevent skin reddening and inflammation, and with a biopolymer-based superabsorbent.
  • a fully biodegradable and bioactive facial beauty mask based on biopolymers in the form of a film or a nonwoven tissue impregnated with formulations based on natural compounds beneficial for the skin.
  • a nanostructured biocompatible non-woven tissue to be used in wound dressing.

The developed products will have a content of renewable materials higher than 90% by weight. Eco-design will be used to improve their end of life and decrease their environmental impact, while LCA and LCCA will be performed to demonstrate safety & regulatory compliance, as well as product environmental & economic sustainability.

 

A competitive consortium led by a Spanish SME

The European consortium involved in PolyBioSkin is complementary, combining the expertise of 12 partners from 7 countries:

  • 5 of them from academia and technology institutes: Consorzio Inter Universitario Scienza e tecnologia dei Materiali (Italy), the University of Westminster (UK), Association pour la recherche et le developpement des methodes et processus industriels (France), Tehnoloski Fakultet Novi Sad (Serbia) and University of Gent (Belgium)
  • 6 industry participants (SMEs): Innovació i Recerca Sostenible, IRIS (Spain, project coordinator), Bioinicia (Spain), Fibroline (France), Texol (Italy), Mavi Sud (Italy) and Exergy (UK)
  • The European Bioplastics Association (Germany)

 

IRIS coordinates the consortium and contributes with its expertise in engineering, monitoring and IT, as well as scientific expertise in bio-compounds and bio-polymers. Furthermore, IRIS will contribute to transversal tasks like IPR management, dissemination and exploitation planning, and ethic requirements.

 

About BBI: BBI stands for Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking. It is a €3.7 billion Public-Private

Partnership (PPP) between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The BBI is dedicated to realising the European bioeconomy potential, turning biological residues and wastes into greener everyday products through innovative technologies and biorefineries.

Carlota Feliu
Marketing Department

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