Innovation: Development And Demonstration Of Best Practices To Design And Produce Sustainable Commercial Bags

Last update: 09.10.2013
Approved by
Is this your eco-innovation?
Update here.
retail trade‚ volatile organic compound‚ industrial process‚ plastic, ink, bag, printing
In 2009, the EU produced 3 264 422 tonnes of plastic sacks and bags – including cones – made from polymers, as much as 85% using ethylene. In Spain, where this project is based, some 13.5 billion commercial plastic bags are made every year. Production of these bags has a high environmental impact – the main issues being use of non-renewable materials in manufacture, the emission of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the printing process, and waste management of the bags after use.

The common production method is to use polymers derived from petroleum, especially high density polyethylene (HDPE). The subsequent printing process typically involves flexography or gravure technology, both of which require solvent-based inks and varnishes.

The industry recognises that in order to meet the challenges of a series of European Directives – including on waste (2008/98/EC), the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents (1999/13/EC) and industrial emissions (2010/75/EU) - a better understanding is needed of everything involved in the lifecycle of the bags, from production of raw materials, transport and printing, to end-of-life.


ECOFLEXOBAG project expects to achieve the next results:
OUTPUTS: Innovative methodology for design and production of sustainable Commercial Bags

- Best Practices for Design and Production of Sustainable Commercial Bags, including:
• Design of sustainable commercial bags
• Implementation of BATs with new sustainable substrates
• Monitoring the sustainable production of commercial bags

- On line Implementation Tool: The Best Practices for Design and Production of Sustainable Commercial Bags will be adapted to an On line Tool which will allow the Commercial Bags manufacturers to implement them in the most effective way.

The innovative methodology for design and production of sustainable Commercial Bags is expected to produce a reduction of the environmental impact of the production and use of Commercial Bags on each implemented Commercial Bags manufacturer.

The specific expected environmental achievements are:
• Replacement of at least 50% of non-biodegradable bags for single use to reusable and/or biodegradable bags
• Reduction of VOCs emissions to legislative value emissions in the printing process
• Improvement = 10 % of a minimum of 5 critical Key performance indicators (KPIs) = Relative substrates consumption, Relative ink and varnishes consumption, Relative number of printing forms, Relative Energy consumption, Relative water consumption.

We estimate to initially disseminate the project to 25% of the Commercial Bags manufacturer in Europe because of the dissemination capabilities of the consortium members from 4 different European countries and its contacts in other countries. It means to create an environmental improvement possibility in around 1.000 companies, what produce around 850.000 tons of "Sacks and bags (including cones) of polymers". Then there will also exist an accumulative impact of the Tools after the life of the project.
Best practices for design and production will be identified and established together with systems for monitoring these processes. These identified best practices will be adapted to an on-line tool which will allow bag manufacturers to implement them in the most effective way.

The project has the following specific objectives:
1. To prevent or reduce current adverse environmental impacts from the generation and management of plastic bag waste;
2. To reduce the overall impact of resource use and to improve the efficiency of such use;
3. To prevent or reduce the direct and indirect effects of VOCs being emitted into the environment during the manufacturing process;
4. To increase the eco-innovation of SMEs in line with the principles of the Environmental Compliance Assistance Programme for SMEs (ECAP) whilst taking account of their competitiveness; and
5. To help SMEs to comply with EU policy on sustainable consumption and production.

Expected results:
- Environmental improvement in some 1 000 companies, currently responsible for producing a total of 850 000 tonnes/yr of plastic bags;
- Replacement of at least 50% of non-biodegradable bags for single use to reusable and/or biodegradable bags;
- Reduction of VOC emissions during the printing process to within legal requirements;
- Improvement of some 10% against five key performance indicators (KPIs): substrates consumption; ink and varnish consumption; number of printing forms; energy consumption; and water consumption; and1. Dissemination of the projects results to 25% of the commercial bag manufacturers in Europe.
The ECOFLEXOBAG project aims to reduce the negative environmental impact of commercial bags during their entire life-cycle. Its main objective is to develop and demonstrate an innovative methodology that will help manufacturers – particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – to design and produce environmentally sustainable bags.

ECOFLEXOBAG project concluded in June 2013 some studies about the trends related to the production and consumption and the performance of sustainable inks and substrates used for Plastic Commercial Bags, with the next main conclusions:

• The share of biodegradable bags is small, and the trend is that it will not increase too much. They create problems in the packaging management systems and they are not fully satisfactory for the users.
• Main trend is to increase the amount of recycled plastic when manufacturing new bags and increase their reusability.
• Water?based inks are the only viable alternative to Solvents-based inks. They are available and prepared to have a good performance although there are certain quality issues which restrict their use.
• PLA and starch based films could achieve similar print quality in terms of tone reproduction and dot shape with solvent based inks. But when printed with water based inks PLA and starch showed a poor behavior in dot shape and in solid reproduction. In fact, the water based inks performed worse than the solvent inks in solid reproduction, this is due to the high surface tension of water when compared with solvents and could be improved by adding surfactants to the ink or improving the surface treatment of the films. All tested film showed similar color response with the different inks, and the solvent and water based inks had a very similar colorimetric response.

At present, the Consortium works in guidelines in the field of ecodesign, printing and process monitoring which will allow the reduction of the impact of the Plastic Commercial Bags through their Life Cycle.
From Ecoflexobag Website
  • maquinabolsas3.jpg
  • maquina1.jpg

This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Development And Demonstration Of Best Practices To Design And Produce Sustainable Commercial Bags


01.09.2012 to 31.03.2015

on-going project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

Please click on an entry to view all contact details.


Field: Scientific research and development (Spain)

Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: Mr. PÉREZ David


Phone: +34-96 1318051