Researchers at the La Mayora Subtropical and Mediterranean Hortofruticulture Institute have developed bioplastics from tomato remains that have similar properties to commercial packaging plastics, but that decompose in one month in the sea. That is a much shorter time than the 450 years it takes for petroleum-derived plastics to degrade.
The researchers extracted cellulose from the tomato leaves, stems, and skin that are discarded in the canning industry after making tomato sauce or ketchup. Researchers used these remains to create a robust and transparent film or plastic wrap that can have multiple applications, stated IHSM researcher, Jose Alejandro Heredia, who works with the cellulose obtained from these remains to create a material capable of being modified with antibacterial bioactive substances and antioxidants that have properties for food packaging and that, in addition, would degrade in a minimum time compared to plastic containers.
Sustainable smart plastics
These bioplastics can be hydrophobic, fluorescent, pearlescent, or have different colors and shades, depending on light exposure. In addition, these bioplastics can also be used to make 'Smart packaging'. Once they are used to protect food and the plastic is losing its initial color, it means that the plastic has absorbed water, is starting to lose its structure, and is beginning to lose antioxidant properties.
These plastics can also be used to coat the inside of a can. Heredia assured that this plastic is as good as the plastic made from oil derivatives, as it helps the metal resist corrosion very well and does not affect the food.
However, the researcher said, this new plastic will not be used by the sector for a long time, because the plastics industry needs to be able to use the same machinery for this change to be economically viable. A revolution for the environment and food sustainability is necessary first.