Exit Menu

Developing sustainable bioplastic films for agricultural use

Ongoing

Project description

AgriFlex – Human-Centred Design for Sustainable Agricultural Plastics

Globally, plastic film use on farms was expected to reach 7.4 million tonnes by 2019 and will continue to increase at >5% annually. The oil-based flexible-plastic films used in agriculture and horticulture are difficult and expensive to recycle because of contamination with soils, pesticides and fertilisers. Consequently, the illegal burning of plastic films results in further environmental pollution.

The replacement of current materials with safer alternatives and changes in farming practices are essential. Biodegradable bioplastic films manufactured from agri-food by-products (AFBPs) can provide a ‘green’ alternative, avoiding collection from farms for recycling and the associated environmental and economic impacts. The use of AFBPs reduces waste going to landfill or incineration, greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of government targets for net-zero carbon release.

The AgriFlex project aims to use Human-Centred Design (HCD) methods to enhance and encourage the use of biodegradable bioplastic films for the agricultural and horticultural industry for weed-suppression and to conserve water in crop production. The project activities include: (i) Evaluation of stakeholder behaviour with respect to current agricultural mulch films; (ii) Establishing key design specifications and human-centred features to encourage uptake of novel flexible bioplastics for widespread adoption; and (iii) Evaluation of requisite performance characteristics including physical, mechanical, durability, shelf-life, end-of-life treatment.

The use of biodegradable mulch film can inform farmers that flexible-films will biodegrade without leaving harmful soil residues. However, confusion regarding usage of the materials is likely, raising the importance of ensuring that human factors are considered when developing bioplastic films. Successful translation from laboratory to commercial-scale production depends on meeting the needs of end-users and other value-chain actors; additionally, identifying added-value features to establish unique selling points that incentivise behavioural change, leading to adoption of new products and return on investment. The HCD approach, combined with performance testing of prototype films, will ensure that future products meet the requirements of prospective end-users, increasing their acceptability, uptake and use.


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Eujin Pei - Academic Background - Eujin is the Director for the BSc Product Design Engineering Programme, and Director for Postgraduate Research. He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Chartered Technological Product Designer (CTPD). As a Product Design Engineer during the early days of his career, he developed solutions for companies including Motorola, Inc., LM Ericsson, Sennheiser GmbH & Co. KG, and Rentokil Initial. Eujin's Research focuses on Additive Manufacturing. He is Chair of the British Standards Institute AMT/8 Committee for Additive Manufacturing; and UK Head of Delegate for ISO/TC261. He is Convenor of the International Organisation for Standardisation ISO/TC261/WG4 that develops global Standards for Additive Manufacturing Data and Design; and Convenor of ISO/TC261/JG67 for Functionally Graded Additive Manufacturing. Eujin is a Full Member of the EPSRC Peer Review College as the national agency that assesses proposals for funding Research in Engineering and Physical Sciences. He is a Member of the EPSRC Engineering Prioritisation Panel, and Member of the EPSRC Engineering Fellowship Panel. In 2018, he became a Member of the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research that involves participating in EPSRC strategic advisory activities. He has been invited by international funding agencies including the I-SITE NExT Initiative Integrative Research Clusters Investment for The Future Programme from France, and the Dutch Research Council NWO Applied and Engineering Sciences from the Netherlands to review and provide scientific feedback for national proposals. Eujin is the Editor-in-Chief for the Progress in Additive Manufacturing Journal (Springer), Associate Editor for Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing (Springer) and Associate Editor for Assembly Automation Journal (Emerald). He is an Editorial Board Member for Rapid Prototyping Journal (Emerald), and Member of the Editorial Board for International Journal of Rapid Manufacturing (Inderscience). He is a reviewer for Cogent Engineering (Taylor & Francis); Journal of Manufacturing Processes (Elsevier); Manufacturing Letters Journal (Elsevier); Optics and Lasers in Engineering (Elsevier); Materials & Design (Elsevier); Nature Communications (Nature Publishing Group); International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management (Inderscience); Advances in Mechanical Engineering Journal (Sage Publishers); Journal of Engineering Manufacture (Sage Publishers); Journal of Mechanical Design (American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME); Recent Patents on Engineering (Bentham Publishers) and the International Journal of Design (Open Access). He is also reviews for Palgrave Books (Macmillan Publishers Ltd.), Laurence King Publishing Ltd. and SpringerNature AG. Research - Eujin leads the Additive Manufacturing & 4D Printing Research Group with his interest focusing on Additive Manufacturing and Smart Materials. He gained hands-on experience as a Research Fellow at Loughborough University, Brunel University London and at the University of Southampton. He was a Visiting Scientist at Vaal University of Technology and at the Central University of Technology in South Africa. His active involvement in professional Memberships enable him to be a step ahead in policies and emerging technologies. He is an active Member of the British Standards Institution TDW4/8 that develops Standards such as BS 8887 for Design for MADE; and BS 8888 for Technical Product Specification. He is a Member of ISO/JTC1/WG12 which develops standardization work for 3D Scanning and 3D Printing within the scope of Information Communication Technology. Eujin also regularly participates in ISO/TC 261/AHG 05; ISO/TC 261/AHG 06; ISO/TC 261/JG 74; and is a Member of ISO/TC 261/CAG Chairman's Advisory Group, and ISO/TC 261/JAG ISO/TC 261 - ASTM F42 Steering group on JG activities. As Convenor for ISO/TC 261/WG4, he oversees the work of  ISO/TC 261 - ASTM F42 joint groups including ISO/TC 261/JG 54 Joint ISO/TC 261-ASTM F42 Group for Fundamentals of Design; ISO/TC 261/JG 57 Joint ISO/TC 261-ASTM F42 Group for Specific Design Guidelines on Powder Bed Fusion; ISO/TC 261/JG 64 Joint ISO/TC 261-ASTM F42 Group for Solid Modelling Support; ISO/TC 261/JG 70 Joint ISO/TC 261-ASTM F42 Group for Optimized Medical Image Data; and ISO/TC 261/JG 73 for Joint ISO/TC 261-ASTM F42 Group for Digital Product Definition and Data Management. In 2020, Eujin was appointed as a Trustee and Councillor of the Institution of Engineering Designers (IED). He is a member of the Engineering Council Registration Standards Committee (RSC) that publishes procedures, routes and requirements for the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC) for registration as Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng). He is a Member of the Institution of Engineering Designers (MIED) and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). He is a Member of the Design Research Society (DRS) and Co-Founder of the Inclusive Design Special Interest Group. At Brunel University London, Eujin is a Committee Member for the Innovation Hub which spearheads new initiatives for student entrepreneurs. He has a track record of generating new knowledge and finding solutions for significant impact in the industry. He is active in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) and worked with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Ltd. on several industry projects. In 2016, he was nominated for the BAE Systems Chairman’s Award that acknowledged the efforts and achievements of company partners who delivered performance and furthered the company’s values. Through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, he has collaborated with SMEs, such as L'Earth Ltd. to conceptualise, develop and retail new 3D Printing bio-materials, in which the product and packaging were recognised with an International WorldStar Award in 2014 for Design excellence. He continues to advise SMEs including Quinteassential Ltd. and Watson EP Ltd. for New Product Development projects. Between 2013-2014, he collaborated and delivered projects for the Leicester Arts and Museum Service where important historical artefacts from the Anglo-Saxon and Roman period were completely digitised and faithfully reproduced using 3D Printing. He worked with the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust to undertake projects such as to completely reverse engineer a historically important Tramcar that was accurately scaled down and 3D Printed. In 2015, he was invited to lead a Masterclass at the Royal College of Art (RCA) for the Include2015 conference on the use of 3D Printing that could support Design practice. Professional Design Career - As a Product Design Engineer, Eujin holds numerous Design awards, including the Wearable Master and Field Trial Winner for the Manchester Numbers That Matter Hackathon (2014), International WorldStar Packaging Award (2014), IDSA IDEA Award (2011), Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design 24 hour Inclusive Design Challenge (2011), Motorola Motofwrd (2006), Opus Eyewear (2006), UK Lighting Competition (2006), RSA Design Directions (2005), Popular Science / Core 77 Security Design Competition (2004) and the President's Furniture award (2003). His work has been published in leading international magazines such as Dwell, Icon, FX International and in national newspapers. He has also been interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester and on Power 98FM. Eujin was invited as a judge for the British Promotional Merchandise Association Design competition in 2010. He has exhibited at an international level, including MagicChef at the Panasonic Centre in Tokyo, Japan (2003); and the Clamplight at the NEC Lighting Show in Birmingham, UK (2007). In 2018, his Soundsphere project was exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum which is the only museum in the USA devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary Product Design.