TECNALIA, through its Construction Unit, is developing a revolutionary material, which is both innovative and sustainable, to make stoppers for wine bottles. The aim of PLACOTOP project, in which Plásticos Urteta and the French Rescoll-Societé de Recherche companies are taking part, is to substitute the plastic stoppers used for wine bottles with stoppers that are made up of a composite material.
This project is the culmination of prior successful research to laboratory-scale The project was considered satisfactorily by the European Commission which has decided to co-finance the activity necessary for its complete development until its final commercialization and marketing phase.
Plastic stoppers are gaining ground in the annual market quota to the detriment of natural corks, due mainly to the price of the former being more competitive. Most manufacturers of plastic or synthetic stoppers are small and medium-sized enterprises located in Spain, France, Germany and Italy. Currently, the manufacture of plastic stoppers accounts for only 13% of the total market production - 20 thousand million stoppers annually – but with a projected increase in market share of up to 50% over the next ten years.
Plastic stoppers are inevitably increasing their presence on the drinks market; nevertheless, some hybrid systems could help to maintain the presence and use of cork at the same time. Recently, certain partners involved in this proposal have developed a new composite material; the plastic stopper is substituted by one bio based.
This new material provides a number of advantages, such as a lower price than cork, less density, less extracting effort and better environmental performance than the plastic stoppers, with the plastic material being partially substituted by materials obtained from biomass (better use of natural resources). Besides, it contributes to saving cork trees, the raw material for cork.
Environmental sustainability – the basis of the project
One of the principal topics of interest for government bodies is enhancing environmental performance by reducing energy and water consumption, as well as through the development of ecological materials. Within the objectives of this project is the substitution of part of petroleum oil-based plastic material by a natural material such as cork.