Young researcher seeks biological alternatives to plastic

TU Graz researcher Samir Kopacic would like to contribute to the fact that in future less plastic and more biodegradable materials will be used. And is developing his own paper-based packaging.

"We currently have nearly 8 billion people on our planet. If we continue to consume as much plastic as we do at present, we will have more and more non-biodegradable plastic waste in our environment and increasingCO2 levels in the atmosphere in the coming years," says Samir Kopacic in drastic words, explaining why he has chosen a career in green technology with a focus on process and material development. The 31-year-old researches at the Institute of Biobased Products and Paper Technology how more biobased materials and less plastics can be used in the field of food packaging. "A classic example for me is muesli packaging," he describes. "They consist of a cardboard box and inside is a plastic bag." The bag, made of synthetic film, is used as a functional gas barrier, for example to keep the muesli flakes crispy and preserve the aroma. As an alternative, the carton could also be coated with a biobased film or foil that would have the same effect, said Kopacic. However, in Austria, approximately 50 per cent of the country's land area is covered with forest - i.e. rich in sustainable and renewable biomass from which valuable biopolymers can be produced," said Kopacic explaining the economic as well as technological aspects behind his work.

Samir Kopacic

The young researcher is working on different multi-functional biopolymers that can be applied to paper or even completely replace plastic. "Most European countries are not oil producers, but in Austria, approximately 50 percent of the land area is covered with forest - thus rich in sustainable and renewable biomass from which valuable biopolymers can be obtained," said the young researcher explaining the economic as well as technological aspects behind his work.

Heinzel-Mondi-Sappi Award for young researchers

Samir Kopacic was born in Gracanica, a small town in the northeastern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He attended the international English-speaking secondary school and then studied Technical Chemistry and Process Engineering at Graz University of Technology. "Together with project partners from industry and academia, I do a lot of applied research and am currently involved in an invention that is to be patented. Some of the results could be developed into products in the next few years".

 

Samir Kopacic

In October 2020, the young researcher received the Heinzel-Mondi-Sappi Award from the Austrian paper industry for his research activities. Kopacic himself is in any case firmly convinced "that we in Europe need a change of course with regard to plastics consumption and that we must focus on biomaterials in the future.

Further inquiries
Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. BSc Samir KOPACIC
Institute for Biobased Products and Paper Technology
samir.kopacic@tugraz.at
+43 316 873 30788

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