Successful proposals will enable the bio-based industries in the Union to contribute to the enhancement of European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence and to the development of innovative and sustainable value-chains in the bio-based sectors. Projects results will contribute to deliver bio-based solutions with reduced environmental impacts on soil, water, and air quality, biodiversity and climate, in line with the EGD objectives, the EU circular economy and the EU zero pollution action plans.
Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Circular design of bio-based technologies and products: decreasing environmental impacts on soil, water, and air quality, biodiversity and climate, increasing durability and suitability of products to be safely re-used and re-manufactured, allowing for high-quality recycling and for biodegradability.
- Innovative manufacturing processes to enable programming the safe biodegradation of bio-based materials and products according with the environmental conditions and time frame for specific applications.
- Information and labelling of bio-based materials and products with biodegradability capacity for specific applications and end-of-life options.
The amount of waste littered in the open environment and causing pollution from harmful substances released from such waste streams, such as from plastic littering, has reached the level of a global emergency, especially affecting soil and water quality and biodiversity in land and marine environments. The overall low level of recycling of many waste streams, including collected plastic waste, is also part of such global pollution challenge. Biodegradability of materials and products for targeted applications may offer viable end-of-life solutions in case of safe and sustainable biodegradation either in open environments or under controlled conditions, i.e., in composting plants and anaerobic digestors.
To deliver biodegradable bio-based solutions that address the global pollution challenges effectively, proposals should:
- Analyse those cases of uncontrolled waste littering in the open environment, particularly of plastic waste leading to pollution from nano- and micro-plastics and other contaminants released by macro-plastics, and the corresponding safe bio-based applications where biodegradation in open environments could enable safe and sustainable end-of-life options, e.g., in humanitarian contexts where waste management systems for collection, sorting and recycling are not feasible.
- Select applications for biodegradable non-single-use/single-use bio-based materials and products. Such applications should include materials and products which are biodegradable in open environments in those cases of uncontrolled waste littering, as treated in the previous point, and/or other items that may bring some environmental benefits from being biodegradable, for example in cases where products and materials are contaminated from food or from other organic substances during their use;
- Develop manufacturing technologies of such bio-based materials and products with targeted performances: i) decreased carbon footprint (based on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and on the increase of carbon removals) and environmental impacts of the production processes; ii) improved circular life extension through predictive maintenance, suitability to be safely re-used and re-manufactured, allowing for recycling, and programmed integrity/biodegradation in specific environments, depending on the application, either in controlled environment (i.e. aerobic digestion in composting plants, anaerobic digestion producing biogas) and in open environments, including in extreme environments in terms of physical conditions; iii) safe biodegradation in the specific environments as in point ii), especially considering the eco-toxicity and any impacts on natural ecosystems from biodegraded materials and from their additives and other components;
- Use innovative and adapt existing AI-based and other digital solutions to optimise the circular lifecycle of products and make it more environmentally and economically sustainable;
- Validate tests of biodegradability of bio-based materials designed for specific applications both in controlled and in open environments, e.g., soil and water, under ranges of physical/chemical conditions including extreme conditions. The tests should include the monitoring of the time-frame of partial up to full biodegradation and the environmental impacts in case of biodegradation in open environments, including eco-toxicity and any impacts on biodiversity;
- Provide insights into the development of information and labelling systems to inform users on the most appropriate applications and on the correct use and end-of-life disposal options for the materials and products within the scope. Transparent information should aim at improving the societal acceptance of bio-based innovation and at supporting consumers and customers in making responsible and informed choices. Information should include the assessment of the risks and environmental impacts, including on ecosystems, from an uncontrolled disposal and from littering into the open environments;
- Assess the overall economic feasibility of the manufacturing of the materials and products within the scope.
Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing EU funded projects, including under the Circular Bio-based Europe JU, the Processes 4 for Planet partnership and other European partnerships of Horizon Europe.
This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities.
In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.
In order to achieve the expected outcomes of this topic, international cooperation is encouraged.
Specific Topic Conditions:
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.
See the projects developed under the topic HORIZON-CL6-2023-CircBio-01-6: ‘Bio-based solutions for humanitarian applications’ for the scoping of the applications in humanitarian contexts.