Producing wrapping and other environmentally friendly alternatives to replace plastic food containers has been the goal of a team of scientists at Harvard University, who received funding from the Harvard-Nanyang Technological University/Singapore Sustainable Nanotechnology Initiative to develop a plant-based, resistant plastic wrap that could replace plastic bags in supermarkets.
"We knew we had to get rid of the petroleum-based food packaging out there and replace it with something more sustainable, biodegradable and nontoxic," says Philip Demokritou, director of the Center for Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research and the Henry Rutgers Chair in Nanoscience and Environmental Bioengineering at Rutgers' School of Public Health and Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. "And we asked ourselves at the same time, 'Can we design food packaging with functionality that extends shelf life and reduces food waste, while improving food safety?'"
The research was published in the scientific journal Nature Food, where they describe the new packaging technology, which uses polysaccharide-based fibers and biopolymers.
Like spider webs, this fibrous material can be spun with a heating device, and "wrapped" over foods of various shapes and sizes, such as fruits or cuts of meat. In addition, the material is strong enough to protect food during shipments and contains antimicrobial agents in its formula to combat pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli and listeria.
Director Demokokritou commented, "And what we have come up with is a scalable technology, which allows 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. This is part of a new generation of "smart" and "green" food packaging."
The study also describes that the new technology can be rinsed with water and degrades in soil in three days, so this new packaging could solve an environmental problem, such as the consumption of petroleum-based plastics. While it is true that some countries and cities have adopted policies such as eliminating the use of plastic bags, this measure has not been generalized worldwide.
The team is not promoting a radical plastic policy, but rather searches for sustainable and low-cost alternatives that can be accessible to all, which is why Demokritou himself clarified "I am not against plastic, I am against petroleum-based plastics that we continue to throw away because only a small part can be recycled. In the last 50 to 60 years, during the Plastic Age, we have thrown 6 billion metric tons of plastic waste into our environment. It's out there slowly degrading. And these tiny fragments are finding their way into the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe."
You can read about the study at https://phys.org/news/2022-06-scientists-antimicrobial-plant-based-food-plastic.html
30 de Agosto, 2022