Ibi has been creating children's toys for more than 100 years. The toy industry flourished in this town from Alicante at the beginning of the 1900s. Toys became a hallmark of the population and laid the foundations of its current business fabric. Over the years, plastic replaced metal in the manufacture of toys. Now, the BioMat4Future project has taken an innovative step so that the materials used in this sector are more sustainable.
Through this project, the Ibi Technological Institute of Children's Products and Leisure (AIJU) has managed to develop natural functional additives that can be used in biomaterials to make sustainable toys from agri-food waste from vegetables. Think of carrot leaves, chard, lettuce, broccoli, beets, or citrus extracts, which provide important functionalities such as coloration, antimicrobial capacity, or flame retardancy.
"The objective was to be able to provide these contributions to the toy, but in a more sustainable way. We have concluded that we can obtain the same product, but in a more sustainable way," stated Maria Jordá, the head researcher at BioMat4Future.
The project started in January 2020, before the pandemic, and has the support from the Institut Valencià de Competitivitat Empresarial (IVACE). The ERDF operational program of the Valencian Community 2014-2020 co-finances it with 219,782 euros.
Four companies from the so-called Toy Valley have participated in the project and are now testing the research results on their production lines. Altogether, 14 companies have been interested in the results of the project. Seven of them are currently directly collaborating with AIJU for the implementation of the results. In addition, they are negotiating with five more companies within the framework of the BioFcase project, which investigates new formulations of functional biomaterials.
Advantages so far: stable color and resistance to microbial reproduction
The AIJU study concluded that the color of the products, which is softer than the traditional ones, is stable over time. The flammability test has also offered the research team positive results in all the formulations obtained. The characterization of the pieces has revealed greater rigidity and fragility at a higher ratio of lignin, a basic organic compound of the plants' woody tissues.
Furthermore, the orange and mandarin extracts applied to these products have resulted in good antimicrobial behavior.
According to Maria Jordà, agri-food waste is becoming a good substitute for other additives that would be more polluting.