Biodegradable marine biopolymer-based packaging for food

08/08/2019

Summary

Inventors have developed a process for biodegradable and compostable packaging in the form of foils, consisting of natural biopolymers, to which natural extracts from oak, chestnut, lignin and hops are added.

Technology Description

Inventors have developed a process for biodegradable and compostable packaging in the form of foils, consisting of natural biopolymers, to which natural extracts from oak, chestnut, lignin and hops are added. The optimization of mechanical, antibacterial and antioxidant properties according to the desired applications in the food and drink-related industries can be fined tuned using the response surface methodology approach for optimization of the selected properties.

Using their process a particular type of so-called zero-waste packaging, which can be dissolved in water and can be consumed, was additionally created.

All the created packaging material can be heat and vacuum sealed and used in a refrigerator.

Main advantages

  • Biodegradable and compostable packaging.
  • Optimization of mechanical, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
  • Can be dissolved in water and can be consumed.

All the created packaging material can be heat and vacuum sealed and used in a refrigerator.

Stage of development

The technology is in the TRL 4 – technology validated in lab.

  • Optimized lab scale process for preparing the sachet 12x12 cm from marine biopolymers (100 bags/per day)
  • Optimized sealing protocol
  • Performed up to 60 days shelf life studies for fresh foodstuff and 3 months for honey, coffee and spices (fresh pasta, cheese, honey, coffee, spices)

Confirmed biodegradability and composability of the sachet in aqueous and terrestrial environments

Challenge and needs

Food production and its packaging are facing one of the biggest challenges so far - how to reduce pollution originating from disposable plastic. According to European Commission data, 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated per year in Europe. These wastes represent mostly disposable packaging from over-packaged foods and food products. This represents a great environmental burden due to the unfavorable physical, chemical and biological behaviour of synthetic plastics, both in contact with food and in the environment after its use. Although it has in the past brought many benefits to humanity, it is urgent to look for improvements and alternatives in reusable materials and procedures that would limit plastic pollution. When mentioning alternatives to plastics, we emphasize solutions that relate to the time after use, that is, what happens to the packaging in the environment, or how it can be reused and recycled. Re-thinking about the future of plastic indicates the desire to create a greater choice, with emphasis on the use of renewable and above all-sufficient resources that do not interfere with the capacity and areas for food production. The use of natural materials (biopolymers) from terrestrial and marine biomass is a promising way of producing modern, environmentally friendly packaging. The sources needed for the production of biopolymers are widely available and well-known. Together with biopolymers, we can also combine other isolates and extracts from biomass to adapt the properties of the material (mechanical strength, elasticity, gaseous and water permeability, UV protection, antioxidant, antimicrobial, colour, biodegradation dynamics) without adding synthetic components. The applications of the customizing plastic-free eco-friendly product using advanced bio-based building blocks obtained from renewable resources is foreseen mostly as fresh food, bread, vegetables, fruit and other in-store prepared fresh food. The developed product prototypes (wrapping foils) need to be tested for the type selected foodstuff with a special focus regarding the shelf life and needed advanced properties of the packaging. The process for the preparation of the material is convenient and can be easily applied at the food production facility, which gave our technology an additional added value. There are many options for upgrading our know-how; this involves the incorporation of local natural resources as a source, which can decrease the price of the materials. Moreover, this type of smart materials has the potential to evolve and create a new generation of biopolymer-based smart packaging that would include visual sensors responsive to humidity, temperature, pressure and have active antimicrobial protection.

Intellectual property

Technology is not yet protected by a patent.

Potential markets and targets

The biodegradable packaging market was valued at USD 85.11 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach a value of USD 119.3 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 5.9% over the forecast period (2019-2024). Biodegradable packaging solutions are increasingly finding applications in a wide variety of industries due to their low environmental impact and high demand.

The main need is to fulfill the demand of the public towards the replacement of the single-use plastic, with a sustainable alternative. Since in the last 70 years, plastic was seen as the best choice for all our needs: Can we envision our life without it? The answer is not so easy since we are missing the realistic options for its replacement. The time for developing an alternative could not be better. Therefore, our innovation aims to provide the new generation of smart materials. Optimization of the production process and investment in additional production facilities are expected to provide the necessary economies of scale and narrow the price differential compared to traditional products. Nevertheless, price competitiveness with paper or plastic is not expected within the short-to-medium term. However, economies of scale will improve its standing among competing for bio-based products. On the demand side, rising environmental consciousness among consumers and businesses will increase the investment in the novel technologies for fossil fuel product replacement with the bio-based materials.

Potential partners

Potential partners are the food production as well as from the commerce companies, with the in house fresh food preparation.

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