Project BIOPACK – Biobased food packaging

Packaging plays a critical role in the food. It enables food products to be portioned, preserved and transported for safe consumption all over the world, enabling nutrition to be delivered to remote locations and reducing food waste. By protecting food from external elements such as moisture and oxygen, packaging protects and extends shelf life and the time until consumption. However some packaging elements are still not recyclable, or not properly collected and therefore not recycled, and thus become environmental threats, contributing to pollute the land and oceans.


Fundamentally rethinking the way packaging materials are produced and used, but also how they are treated at the end of their lives, is key for a sustainable waste-free future.  


The development of innovative bio-based packaging materials

Project BIOPACK started in 2019 and involves the EPFL Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites and Nestlé Research. Its overall objective is to create life-cycle engineered, biobased food packaging solutions to minimize environmental impact, considering the value chain from production to after use.


The project focuses on the adoption of holistic life-cycle perspective, to move from non-renewable and non-recyclable resources to cost-efficient biobased materials with reduced environmental footprints. These materials are based on microfibrillated cellulose (MFC, a new form of engineered cellulose ) obtained from renewable biomass sources: microalgae and wood, and are designed to be compatible with existing end-of-life valorisation methods.

However, while sourcing materials from forests appears attractive due to the renewable nature of this resource there are also questions regarding the dependance on forests for future material needs. The progress of the microalgae mass production could help in the substitution of vegetal cellulose for bioplastic production. In addition, MFC shows outstanding oxygen barrier performance (100 to 10’000 times better than PET depending on relative humidity).

Yves Leterrier

Sustainable packaging does not exist: but an approach based on sustainable product life cycle can help optimize the net system impact of new packaging solutions.

Yves Leterrier, Senior Scientist – Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites

The ambition is to contribute to the vision of a zero-waste society, in particular in the food sector. For such a vision to be realized, numerous actors across the food value chain must be involved, and novel concepts must be tested and implemented.

Whereas EPFL focuses on the production and disposal of bio-based materials and their characterization, Nestlé contributes with Life Cycle Assessment studies considering the entire life cycle. Nestlé also provides inputs for specific case studies related to target markets and product types for which the packaging materials will be designed.


Solutions will be developed together in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the entire life cycle options and their performance considering relevant sustainability criteria.