A new plant-based material can replace plastic food packaging for keeps.
Plastic food packaging has two serious drawbacks: every year, it leads to millions of tons of plastic waste in our environment, and secondly, food items packed in petroleum-based plastic wrappers and containers are more susceptible to microbial contamination. However, now we may have an effective solution to these problems.
A team of scientists has developed a biodegradable and antimicrobial food packaging solution that could finally put an end to the need for plastic-made food packaging items.
What’s more surprising is that this eco-friendly food packaging comes in the form of a spray that creates a plant-based coating on the food. This coating protects the food against microbial contamination (for example, increasing the shelf life of avocados by about 50 percent) and any damage that can occur during its journey from the farm to your home.
Researchers from Rutgers University and Harvard developed the underlying technology that makes the food spray work. They have developed a biopolymer using pullulan, a naturally occurring carbohydrate (polysaccharide) obtained from the fungus Aureobasidium pullulans and water (as solvent). When spun together, the mix turns into antimicrobial pullulan fibers (APFs) that can be sprayed on to produce.
Whereas plastic packets often release harmful chemicals into our food and take more than 400 years to biodegrade, the APF coating is a naturally derived biodegradable and non-toxic biopolymer that does not impact the quality of the edible it covers (a previous study also highlights that humans can digest pullulan). Moreover, according to the researchers, it can be easily washed off from a food item using water and takes only three days to completely decompose in the soil.
The APFs have the potential to put a full stop to the havoc plastic food wraps wreak on our planet. Let’s hope this antimicrobial method soon becomes the new normal in food packaging.