The amount of plastic waste increases every year. Some of this waste is due to plastic packaging used to protect food. As part of the “BioActiveMaterials” project, researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed an eco-friendly coating for paper packaging. With this, not only is plastic saved, but the coating of plant-based proteins and waxes also extends the shelf life of the food. After use, the packaging can go into the paper recycling bin for disposal.
Nowadays, those who shop for food in discount stores will almost always be buying plastic packaging as well. However, mineral oil-based plastics are contributing to the growing waste mountain. In Germany, a total of 38.5 kilograms of plastic packaging waste per capita was generated in 2017 alone. This plastic waste floats on the oceans or is exported to Asian or African countries for disposal. Exposed to environmental factors, these large plastic items break down into microplastics, which eventually make their way into the food chain. Reducing plastic packaging in the food sector as well, then, is a matter of necessity.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV and the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB have now presented an innovative and sustainable solution for food packaging. Just as with conventional packaging, it keeps the food fresher for longer. The new packaging, though, involves no plastic whatsoever. After use, it can be recycled without a problem.
Proteins, waxes and antioxidants extend the shelf life of the food
In the “BioActiveMaterials” project, the researchers use paper as the base material for producing typical and functional packaging materials: resealable bags or wrapping paper. The paper is provided with a special coating using standard processes. The researchers make this coating from proteins and waxes with biobased additives. The special formulation of this coating, which offers long-term stability, performs several functions at the same time.
The coated papers developed as part of the “BioActiveMaterials” project are an alternative to the packaging currently used for all kinds of food, no matter whether fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, cheese or even confectionery. Consumers can store and handle the paper-packed foods in exactly the same way as the food packed in plastic today. “Our paper-based packaging is also suitable for goods that have to be chilled, meat for example. The anti-oxidant function remains,” adds Müller. This packaging can even be used for frozen foods. “After use, the packaging is placed in the waste paper recycling bin, the coating is biodegradable and does not impede the recycling process,” says Dr. Cornelia Stramm, Head of Department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV.
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For more information:
Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV
Giggenhauser Straße 35
85354 Freising, Germany
Phone +49 8161 491-120
Fax +49 8161 491-222