In 2015, the European Commission released its Communication Closing-the-loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy. This document established an ambitious Circular Economy Package with the aim of encouraging both European businesses and consumers to make a more sustainable use of resources by implementing a circular economy.
This Circular Economy Package establishes a precise and ambitious program of actions, with measures that include a revision of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste and Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste, among others. Besides, this action plan covers the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and use as secondary raw materials. In contrast to the traditional, linear “extract-transform-use-dispose” economy model, the European Commission proposes "closing the loop" of products’ lifecycles by increasing recycling and re-use, in favour of both the environment and the economy.
The revised legislative proposals on waste set clear targets for waste and landfill reduction, and establish a road map for waste management and recycling. A key element of the revised waste proposal includes specific measures to promote re-use by turning by-products into raw materials, which will also stimulate industrial symbiosis.
In the implementation of this circular economy, one of the industrial sectors to pay attention is the tanning industry. Even though this sector is considered to play an important environmental role because it reuses the by-products of the meat industry, processes carried out at the different stages generate a high amount of solid waste. For this reason, the European tanning sector needs to implement new, greener strategies and solutions to provide a cleaner, more sustainable and more competitive industry.
In this context, LIFE microTAN project focuses on the recovery of collagen derivatives from untanned solid wastes. More specifically, it deals with the isolation of gelatine in order to use it as a natural microencapsulating agent in the production of active materials, such as leather, with functional properties. Thus, LIFE microTAN project is a proposal for “closing the loop” within the tanning industry.