Preliminary Competition Timeline

Hello all! Above is a picture of the **current anticipated timeline for the competition, starting with a technical submission and followed by two solution development windows, each with its own testing phase. The transition between phase 1 and 2 is a product progression. A third and final testing phase to assess end-of-life performance will also be conducted for the finalist teams.

What we would like your feedback on is:

  • How do these stage timeline windows look?
  • Do the tests occur at the most appropriate phases?; and,
  • Is this sufficient time for research and design development and testing?

Please leave any thoughts or ideas you may have in the comments below! Here is more detail of what each section composes of:

Timeline Details/Elaboration of Image

Overall, we expect teams to produce 5 separate, biodegradable bio-based flexible food packaging products:

Phase 1 products:

  • Film for sliced vegetable and fruit
  • Film for animal-based products

Phase 2 products:

  • Pouch for vegetable and fruit
  • Pouch for animal-based products
  • Pouch for dry produce (snacking content)

Technical Submission

A white paper covering a business strategy proposal, and information of source materials for submitted projects.

Solution Development Time #1: 12 months to research and design biodegradable bio-based film for two applications: sliced vegetable/fruit, and animal-based products. This film will also likely serve as a building block for the product in competition’s phase 2.

Phase 1 testing for films: 1 month

  • A hazard screening to make sure all materials are safe,
  • A business plan detailing the scaling potential, assessing production rate, growth strategy and renewable resource material (towards net-positive impact)
  • Biobased content (carbon proportion),
  • Final product(s) performance (mechanical,physical and chemical properties),
  • Food contact safety (food contact migration and flavor scalping tests)

Solution Development Time #2: 6 months to research and design for the second competition submission: biodegradable bio-based pouches for three applications: vegetable/fruit, animal-based products as well as dry produce.

Phase 2 testing for pouches: 2 months

  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of each submission assessing water use and global warming potential,
  • a hazard screening to make sure all materials are safe, if any changes to material were made Biobased content (carbon proportion)
  • Final product(s) performance (mechanical, and physical and chemical properties)
  • Food contact safety (food contact migration and flavor scalping tests)

Phase 3 testing for End-of-Life of all submissions: 3-6 months

Testing: compostability and biodegradability of films and pouches in several environmental conditions including industrial composting, freshwater, marine environments and soils. Priority testing environments are informed by two scenarios: return to the economy and return to the planet - to account for the present day waste leakage and include aerobic and anaerobic environments. Tests will include ecotoxicity and heavy metals testing to ensure material safety.

If you have comments or thoughts on any individual portion of this timeline and detail, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below! We look forward to all of your feedback.

What do y’all think? Anything we’re missing or should consider? @akb @barbswartzentruber @ErnieRogers @thanku @schalkj @iduaolunwa @austinclowes @eakinyi @LHanson @Joanne @Utobou @kjbradford @marsxr @bngejane @renskelynde @kcamphuis @ricardoyudi @NoraEatREAL @neillk @jcoonrod @FranckSaintMartin @Olawale @LaurenTurk @yusuke @janetlee @brandonkion @SteveK8 @ethan @ymedan

Looks reasonable.
There exists a tension between shelf life of a package and its degradability potential. This time line may serve the fresh produce packaging since the content dictates its shelf life.
However, for snacks, the package may degrade before the content shelf life has expired. Alternatively, if the package is designed for a long shelf life, it may then degrade too slowly to be tested in the proposed time frame.

I would say that phase 1 and maybe phase 2 needs more time.
At least 2mo

I think @ymedan makes a good point about shelf life for more processed foods. I also wonder if there is enough time for testing in Round 1 and Round 2; especially with Covid conditions still in play (and may continue well into next year). More time may be needed overall to account for any unforeseen delays (like pandemics! among others).

Hi @nmgraham @NickAzer, Honestly I think it needs input from individuals or entities that have developed biodegradable bio-based materials. Is this enough time to design and prototype from scratch? Will it lead only to entities proposing what they’ve already developed?

Other thoughts:

  • Why not include some early screening-type LCA or other environmental impact assessment in Phase I? Couldn’t this lead down the wrong path, only to find out later in Phase 2?
  • See other community discussions re: Biobased content (carbon proportion) not being enough to discern impact.

That seems reasonable @nmgraham @NickAzer
Some periods might need an extension - you might be able to consult potential partners involved in the testing and evaluation.

After the initial submission, should there be a review period to reject applications that will not be suitable for various reasons (e.g. unsuitable LCA factors, hazardous or questionable materials)?

Re: “Biobased content (carbon proportion)” - I’m not sure why the proportion of carbon is relevant, if the cycles proposed are closed (high recycling rates) and safe. The LCA should take account of this and other factors.

@Ethan , I hear your concerns and I want to address them as best as possible. When it comes to R&D of a new material/polymer, our understand from professionals in the field is that it takes decades of work in order to get to a readiness level for the market. Since we are very interested in having impact on a much shorter time frame, we’ve set things up so submittals are products that will already have hit a certain level of readiness. Now, this isn’t set in stone, and a potential competitor could submit a solid sourcing and development plan and show great potential in a new material, but maybe the business plan is more uncertain since the technology isn’t market ready. While this is “bad” for our impact strategy, it’s "good " for the world as new early stage materials have the potential of getting a large pot of money to accelerate the market readiness of the technology. As for the environmental impact assessment, we took in to consideration all of the comments from the mentioned thread and readjusted the competition timeline and plan accordingly. I’m tagging @Eti to give more details on why environmental impact was moved to phase two.

Excellent point @akb , I’ll tag my teammates ( @Caroline @Eti ) to see if they have any clarification on the post tech submission review period, or what the intentions are for down selecting between the phases.

As for carbon content, this is testing standard that is used to assess how biodegradable a material is, versus how ‘disintegrable’ a material is; just because the human eye can’t see it does not mean it is fully mineralized (microplastics are a perfect example of this issue). Biodegradability testing measures the CO2 output in a controlled facility with a defined and controlled microbial sample, and the amount of CO2 released during the experiment can be directly correlated to how much of the sample is truly biodegrading. The one caveat that comes with this is the fact that carbon is accumulated within the microbial organisms as consumption happens, therefore it is possible to get a “false” biodegradability metric if the bacteria converts more of the material to growth than it does to a gas byproduct.

Thanks, @Ethan and @nmgraham! to capitalize on the said above, Noel is referring to the time needed to develop a new polymer, as based on our research, which also indicated that it is an extremely costly process and thus not likely to occur in a competition. Given the market demand (i.e., SUP ban in Europe from 2021), this competition is not likely to encourage that but will encourage prototypes from scratch. Nonetheless, we will not prevent new polymers.

The 12-month initial development phase was determined with our scientific advisors (who are from this field) for the ‘idea to a prototype’ and the following development time is capitalizing on the first – treating the film as a building block of the pouch.

With regard to sustainability, absolutely, this is a gateway to participation in phase 2. Actually, today we moved it to the end of phase 1 (pre-development time 2) so to accommodate competitors better. The reason for ‘when’ to test for sustainability is based on when they will have the full information for the first product.

Thank @akb and @nmgraham!
@akb, you are spot-on; the hazard screening will be done as a gateway prior to phase 1 of testing and judging. It can be done as early as the White Paper submission, but we wish to encourage teams who also start from scratch. All tests in this competition must be done on final products, hence the timeframe for this test. The faster the team is ready to submit the Haz screening, the faster they will know if they can progress to phase 1.

The LCA assessment involves full details of the production process of the final product (the prototype), and hence we were advised to do so when the prototype is fully ready (phase 1).

The carbon content is to determine that the polymer is indeed bio-based. Usually, it’s performed at the end of life tests, but we view it as an essential gateway to phase 1 testing – as we want to make sure that this is indeed a (biodegradable) bio-based product before testing for functionality performance. What do you think?

That all sounds pretty reasonable @Eti and @nmgraham
Regarding carbon content… In this century we will see the rise of novel materials, e.g. graphene. That would have a high carbon content - but it might not be biodegradable. Carbon based molecules found in nature are likely to be biodegradable [nature has a lot of experience here], but synthetic carbon compounds might not be (and might not be safe). The testing and evaluation should be prepared for such scenarios, in case such materials are submitted to the challenge.

@akb thank you for this important insight! Sounds like biodegradability has be tested earlier.

Hi all,

  • The timelines look ambitious for development of a novel material *and* integrating it into existing manufacturing processes for complex flexible formats (film, pouch etc.). This could potentially be accelerated if expertise and access to equipment were made available to challenge applicants through a commercial partner or suitable research facility.
  • Food contact safety is a long process for novel materials in Europe (7+ months). Similarly novel materials may need to be tested for compatibility with other additives - adhesives, colourants, enhanced barrier systems - all takes time.
  • End of life / compostability testing can also take a long time: EN13432 is 6 months in controlled conditions for biodegradation; VIncotte Home Composting is 365 days for biodegradation (26 weeks for the disintegration testing). We are looking at scoping some work in the UK for testing the biodegradability of materials like these in the natural environment (as opposed to lab / advanced weathering testing) and are considering a longer time frame - at least 12 months to allow for seasonality.