Scientists have developed a new plant-based coating for food that could replace plastic. The biodegradable coating is environmentally sustainable, but also a public health solution thanks to its antibacterial properties. The product comes in the form of a solution that is sprayed directly onto foods, protecting them from disease-causing microbes and from damage during transportation.
The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Nature Food on Monday. Philip Demokritou, director of the Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research Center at Rutgers University and co-author of the study, said that the coating will help get rid of petroleum-based packaging.
“We knew we needed to get rid of the petroleum-based food packaging that is out there and replace it with something more sustainable, biodegradable, and non-toxic,” Demokritou said.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Can we design food packaging with functionality to extend shelf life and reduce food waste while enhancing food safety?’ And what we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibers that can wrap food directly ” he said.
According to the researchers, the product was developed from common carbohydrates. The technology behind it extracts fiber-based polysaccharides that are naturally occurring in most carbohydrates. The scientists were able to achieve the results by using a heating device that resembles a hair dryer. The scientists then spin the fibers and shrink them and wrap them around any type of food. The product can take any shape or form that’s required.
The beauty of the new packaging material is that once it’s wrapped around the food it remains sturdy, supporting the contents inside from bruising. Further, its antimicrobial properties make it a suitable option for transporting food, containing agents that can fight contaminants such as E. Coli and listeria.
“What we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibers that can wrap food directly,” Demokritou said.
If the new material is adopted and used on large scale, it will go a long way in helping the world deal with the plastic wrapping menace.
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