A group of researchers from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas has developed a new, more environmentally friendly plastic material — which they call nano-bricks — that will help keep foods preserved for longer periods of time. The material,which resembles brick and mortar under a microscope, is made up of only 30% plastic polymers mixed with a natural clay material which makes it more air-tight than other available plastics. The group believes that this new material will give a boost to the food-packaging industry. While we’re all about creating new eco-friendly materials, we’re not sure this one is going to end up green in the long run since the 100 mile diet doesn’t need much plastic.

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The new nano-brick material is made from the same substance (called montmorillonite clay) used to make bricks for building and is designed to be used as an outer layer for existing plastic packaging which will make it virtually impermeable to oxygen. So, the idea is that you take the plastic that you already have and put more clay-enhanced plastic over it. This is all in the name of keeping foods fresher for longer periods of time, presumably to ship them longer distances. Though the researchers are right in saying this material is more environmentally friendly than existing plastics, the problem is that they don’t replace anything, basically just adding onto what is already there and making their 30% plastic polymer another part of our plastic problem. Read more about the plastic epidemic in the oceans here.

This is a new, ‘outside of the box’ technology that gives plastic the superior food preservation properties of glass,” said Jaime Grunlan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, who reported on the research. “It will give consumers tastier, longer lasting foods and help boost the food packaging industry.” Glass is more environmentally friendly than plastic — it comes from a renewable resource and can be upcycled, unlike plastic — and though it is a more efficient packager, plastic is generally chosen instead because glass is so heavy in comparison. The researchers are promising longer lasting potato chips and soda pop in the future, hooray for packaged foods — insert sarcasm here.

Via Science Daily

Lead photo by TungChingLU