CURCOL - Curcumin based sustainable Colours

Project Summary

The Interreg NWE project CurCol aims to demonstrate economic potential for the production chains from regionally produced plants to colourants in packaging. The project assesses three pilots for colourant production and application in plastic and paper packaging, by defining barriers, business cases and action plans. The focus of CurCol is on the yellow natural colourant Curcumine.


Europe absorbed approximately 87 million tons of packaging waste per year. (Industrial) composting is often used for biobased packaging materials, such as PLA. Non-biodegradable synthetic colourants are released during composting. Many contain toxic components that accumulate in the environment. When recycling paper, these colourants also end up in wastewater. We can prevent this by using natural colours. Project partners from Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands join the CurCol project to reach this.

Transition to curcumine colours

The few available biodegradable colourants do not meet the quality criteria, so that the packaging industry cannot use them now as an alternative to fossil-based substances. Curcumine, a yellow natural colorant, is already used in food and pharmaceuticals. Wide application is hampered, mainly due to poor UV stability. Recent research shows that it is possible to improve UV stability and generate other colors like red and blue. CurCol continues this research.

Long term

The aim of the project is:

  • The valorisation of biobased dyes in biodegradable packaging,
  • introduction of a valuable crop in the greenhouse industry
  • and identification of new supply chains,
  • signaling growth in jobs and economic activity.

On the long term new knowledge and transnational partnerships support the transition to a circular and biobased economy. CurCol focuses on packaging, but application in, for example, textiles and cosmetics is also possible.


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Project Partners

Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
Stichting Avans 13 Professor Cobbenhagenlaan
5037 DA
Name Contact Name Email Country
Provinciaal Proefcentrum voor de Groenteteelt Oost-Vlaanderen vzw Saskia Buijsens Belgium
Centexbel Isabel De Schrijver Belgium
Rubia 100% Natural Colours Rudolph de Jong Netherlands
Athlone Institute of Technology Margaret Fournet Ireland
Aachen Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials e.V. Yvonne van der Meer Germany
DeltaQ T/A Quality Additives Patrik Rohrer Ireland
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Bodo Philipp Germany


Turmeric Coloured Straws Adding Spice to Sustainability

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AIT is playing a lead role in the EU Intereg NWE CurCol project, developing biobased colourants for biopolymer products. The spice turmeric is used. Yes, it’s the same one you use to cook, with its intense orange-yellow colour. The Curcol project is cultivating and chemically modifying cucurmin and at AIT we are incorporating it into polymers as a biocolourant. As curcumin is a food source, it is both bio-sourced and bio-degradable. The turmeric plant from which the curcumin is extracted has a low cultivation intensity and is an ideal candidate as a colourant for biopolymers. Read More

Environmental impact curcumin

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The work on sustainability assessment of curcumin is currently being conducted by analyzing the environmental impacts of curcumin at different stages of its life cycle (extraction, production, use, end of life). The results of this research highlight the environmental and health concerns and challenges of using curcumin as a biobased dye. This research is led by the AMIBM in cooperation with AIT and University of Münster. Read More

Stabilization of curcumine in bioplastics

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Two biodegradable polymers, i.e. a starch-based polymer and PLA, were selected to study the UV stability of curcumine in a plastic matrix. Curcumine is known as an unstable substance when exposed to UV. In order to improve its stability, two routes were investigated: 1) the use of stabilizers (both natural and synthetic ones) and 2) the modification of curcumine to tune its color but also its stability. The latter step was performed by Avans Hogeschool. Read More

Bio turmeric growing in Flemish greenhouse

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In the context of the Interreg Northwest Europe project CurCol, PCG investigates the regional cultivation of the turmeric plant for coloring purposes. On April 21 2021, turmeric rhizomes were planted in a greenhouse in Kruisem, Flanders at the headquarters of PCG (Proefcentrum voor Groenteteelt). After a successful test in 2020, this new trial was set up to optimize the cultivation of turmeric in the Northwest region of Europe. Read More

Pilot aeroponic turmeric cultivation in Flanders

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In the context of the Interreg Northwest Europe project CurCol, PCG investigates the regional cultivation of the turmeric plant for coloring purposes. In May 2021, turmeric rhizomes were planted in an aeroponic pilot in Kruisem, Flanders at the headquarters of PCG (Proefcentrum voor Groenteteelt). This trial is set up as a proof-of-concept aeroponic turmeric cultivation trial. Read More

Printing inks in the Curcol project

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The Curcol project is all about using novel dyes extracted from locally grown turmeric plants and using them into packaging materials. But packaging is more than the wrap. It’s printed with information and decorations too. That’s why the Curcol project also investigates the use of biobased and biodegradable printing inks in combination with the curcumin derived colorants. Read More

DeltaQ tests heat and shear stability

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DeltaQ actively cooperates with the main partner of the application working package AIT. They currently test heat and shear stability of the yellow curcumin pigment and testing it in masterbatch and compound formulations. The pigment seems to be stable up to 190 °C in polyethylene. It was also found that the yellow shade is similar to commercial organic pigment PY 62. Which is good news. Read More

First CurCol event successful

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On the 20th of April the first CurCol event took place. More than 50 participants listened online to the inspirering presentations of Centexbel, Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy, Rodenburg Biopolymers and DeltaQ. The topic of this afternoon was natural colors for biobased plastic. In the CurCol project we focus on the yellow natural colorant curcumine and the application in plastic and paper packaging. This webinar was a good opportunity to share the results so far and to meet other parties in this discipline. It is great to see that the interest for this topic is high. See you at our next event! Read More

Curcuma: from cultivation to biobased colorant

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Did you know that we produce about 87 million tons of packaging waste per year in Europe? The good news is that a part of this is biobased packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable. The bad news is that these processes still release non-biodegradable and often toxic synthetic colorants. We can counter this by using natural colorants. In the Interreg Northwest Europe project CurCol, we investigate the color production and application in bioplastic and paper packaging, based on the yellow natural colorant curcumin. And that process already starts with the cultivation of the turmeric plant. Read More


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