This month we had the opportunity to interview Francesca Braca, Project Research Manager at ARCHA S.R.L. Francesca has a consolidated experience leading R&D project in the field of: waste and wastewater analysis; management and recycling; H&S risk assessment; biodegradability and compostability analyses; and LCA, s-LCA and LCC studies.
ARCHA S.R.L is a well-recognised analysis laboratory. Can you tell us more about your services?
We are a state-of-the-art chemical, biological and technological analysis laboratory, research center and consultant for Industries and Companies on sustainability and regulation compliance.
We have modern and sophisticated instruments to do the most varied analytical measures. These analyses can be performed on diverse matrices and fields of application. As a matter of fact, we have more than 120 tests certified according to the UNI CEI EN ISO / IEC 17025 standard. Nevertheless, we have diversified our business into other areas (ARCHA Lab, ARCHA Research, TECHA Technology, ARCHADEMY).
We are also a reference in R&D&I. We coordinate and carry out applied research projects with the aim of providing innovative solutions. Simultaneously to external orders and needs, the research area continuously works on technological innovation and pre-competitive development. For this reason, ARCHA is involved in several European, national and regional R&D projects.
Without a doubt, this know-how is really useful in R&D. What tasks do you perform in MANDALA project?
We have assessed the end-of-life performance of the MANDALA packaging demonstrators. In this way, ARCHA has passed positively the TÜV AUSTRIA audit for biodegradability and compostability procedures assessed in all defined environments (marine and fresh water, soil, home and industrial compost). Our tests fulfil the requirements of EN 13432 Standard on Compostability of packaging and the TÜV Austria specific procedures. Thanks to this recognition, ARCHA can carry on and follow up all the certification of new products.
However, the contribution of ARCHA does not end here. Thanks to our experience and know-how on LCA, LCC and s-LCA assessment, ARCHA coordinates the environmental, social, and economic impacts of MANDALA products. For this reason, we actively collaborate in the business plan elaboration and in the exploitation & IPRs management.
Finally, we contribute to MANDALA project with our strong experience on Health and Safety risk assessment for workers and workplaces. In fact, ARCHA is responsible for identifying hazards, quantifying the exposure, and providing good practice procedures to eliminate or minimize risks.
Since MANDALA project is coming to an end in the following months. Can you tell us how MANDALA’s new products are performing?
MANDALA packaging demonstrators have been tested in different end-of-life scenarios which included: marine, fresh water, soil, industrial compost, and home compost. So far, its biodegradability has been assessed in marine and fresh water, reaching the target, being the biodegradability test on soil still ongoing.
These demonstrators are in compliance with the requirements of EN 13432 for industrial compostability. In addition, they satisfy the conditions of home composting, obtaining in both cases a compost that passes the ecotoxicity tests.
Passing now to the Health & Safety analyses, it has been confirmed that the production of developed formulations is compliant with specific limits stablished by the EU Directive 89/391/EEC and National Regulation.
Finally, dealing with the sustainability assessment, although the costs of bio-based materials are higher, the management of their waste is considerably reduced. In addition, compared to benchmarks, MANDALA products reduce ozone depletion and the use of fossil and mineral resources.
You have explained how MANDALA packaging demonstrators perform in terms of biodegradability and compostability. Could you explain us the difference between these two terms?
According to European Bioplastics, biodegradation is a chemical process in which materials are metabolised to CO2, water and biomass by the action of microorganisms. The process of biodegradation depends on the conditions of the specific environment (industrial composting plant, garden compost, soil, water, etc.) and on the materials, additives and polymers or application itself. Consequently, the process and its outcome can vary considerably.
In order to be recovered by means of organic recycling (composting) a material or product needs to be biodegradable and compostable, too.
So, compostability is a characteristic of the final product, packaging or associated component that allows it to biodegrade and disintegrate under specific conditions (e.g. a certain temperature, timeframe, etc). These specific conditions are described in standards, such as the European standard on industrial composting EN 13432 (for packaging) or EN 14995 (for plastic materials in general). Materials and products complying with these standards can be certified and labelled accordingly.
Furthermore, for compostability, we can differentiate between industrial compostable and home compostable products. Industrially compostable plastics are designed to biodegrade in the conditions of an industrial composting plant or an industrial anaerobic digestion plant with a subsequent composting step. In the other hand, home compostable plastics are designed to biodegrade and disintegrate in the conditions of a well-managed home composter at lower temperature than in industrial composting plants.
European projects do not only aim to give response to economic and social challenges but also, they pursue to increase the competitiveness of the small and medium-sized enterprises. As a SME, could you explain us which benefits have you obtained from participating in this European project?
Cooperation within a European consortium allows us to achieve better results through sharing excellence science. In this context, being part of the MANDALA multidisciplinary consortium provides us a holistic view throughout all the value chain. During the project, we have increased our knowledge, experience and capability to assess all the mentioned end-of-life scenarios.
Thanks to the participation of ARCHA in this European project, we have been recognised by TÜV Austria, achieving all the certifications. Therefore, we can assess MANDALA is developing sustainable multilayer packaging.