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New biodegradable food packaging prolongs food shelf life


Plastic pollution and disposal of single use plastic packaging is a huge sustainability issue in need of innovative solutions: latest results from the EU-funded project show that an innovative formulation of active ingredients could allow this biodegradable food packaging to prolong the shelf life of foods and therefore reduce food waste.

Over the past couple years, YPACK has developed a bio-based plastic alternative to traditional plastic food packaging.

YPACK's compostable packaging is made from a sustainable biopolymer, poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV), produced from industry by-products cheese whey and micro-cellulose from almond shells. Biodegradability tests show full degradation within the regulated 90 days.

Active packaging breakthrough

The biopolymer PHBV was used to create very thin "bio-paper" from food industry by-products.

Zinc oxide and oregano essential oil, two active ingredients, were incorporated into the bio-papers. These compounds have good antimicrobial activity against two bacteria that can cause food poisoning: Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (E.coli).

Researchers discovered an optimal ratio of the active ingredients that showed successful short-term (15 days) and medium-term (up to 48 days) anti-bacterial effects in 'open' and 'closed' systems.

This means the formula could be used for food products where the packaging is opened and closed several times, for example to package ham slices or bread. The active components could be used in both trays and flow films as an active layer.

These promising laboratory results show the potential of bio-based active packaging to increase the shelf life of fresh products like meat, fruits & vegetables and fresh pasta. However, due to regulatory restrictions within the EU, the final YPACK packaging will not, in the first instance, contain an active layer but will be made purely from biodegradable PHBV.

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