NEWS: Biodegradable AND Antimicrobial Food Packaging

04-07-2017

Researchers at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania are creating biodegradable food packaging materials which, in addition, will keep food fresh for longer, they claim.

“Most food packaging is made from various plastics, which are being produced from non-renewable sources and are non-biodegradable. Also, it is not always possible to recycle them as leftovers from food amount to almost 50 percent of the packaging waste”, says Paulius Pavelas Danilovas, researcher at KTU Department of Polymer Chemistry and Technology, which is investigating the potential to create a material from cellulose composites, while, at the same time enriching the packaging material with active components.

“Our aim was to create a biodegradable pack, which could have anti-oxidizing or antimicrobial properties”, says Danilovas. Active components of clove ethereal oil proved very effective in tying free radicals; the oil proved efficient in enriching packaging with anti-oxidizing qualities. This effect helps to keep food fresh for longer, but is not antimicrobial.

To achieve antimicrobial effect, KTU added ionic silver particles to the cellulose. The results made the packaging film more elastic and stronger. In addition, the film enriched with silver inhibits the growth of microorganisms and its antimicrobial properties remain active over a long period, they claim.

According to Danilovas, it is a great challenge to develop food packaging as thermal methods are always being used and cellulose does not have thermoplastic properties. “We are excited to have found composites which not only allow cellulose to turn into fluid, but are non-toxic.” he added

The modified cellulose packaging degrades in around two years. The production of the packaging prototype was tested in a Lithuanian company. KTU is seeking to commercialize the findings.