Biopolymer materials derived from renewable biomass can serve as a resourceful
alternative in place of conventional plastic packaging, having a role in the
production of edible films with nano-fibrous layers in combination with essential
oils serving as bioactive ingredients having infused anti-microbial properties to
achieve the food sustainability.
For many years, conventional plastics have been manufactured and used for packaging
applications in a variety of industries. As the food industry expands, so does the demand for packaging materials. Plastics have elevated the food industry to new heights, Petrochemical industries produce 95–99 percent of plastic material from non-renewable sources (synthetic plastics). Synthetic plastic products are widely used in medical appliances, packaging, building materials, and packaging, among other applications.
However, conventional petroleum-based plastics are non-biodegradable, posing serious environmental issues such as a threat to aquatic life and deteriorating air quality as Incineration emits harmful gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine, 1,3-
butadiene, furans, amines, dioxins, and so on) that degrade air quality and increase the
threat of global warming, as well as pose several health concerns.
Packaging is a critical part to look out for while addressing some difficult challenges of
sustainable food consumption, one of which is clearly about minimizing the environmental carbon footprint created through the manufacturing of packed food.
Why Sustainable Packaging?
Innovative sustainable packaging aims to contribute to the reduction of food waste and loss whilst also preserving the quality of food, as well as minimizing food safety concerns by preventing food-borne serious illnesses and contaminants. Furthermore, it addresses the long-term critical issue of environmentally persistent plastic waste accumulation, as well as the conservation of oil and food resources.
For addressing the persistent issues, natural components are being sought by researchers for developing biologically active packaging materials, Biodegradable polymers or biopolymers have come up as an alternative way of controlling the risk posed by non-biodegradable plastics in many industrial applications.
They have been classified into three types based on the starting material: polymers extracted from biomass, monomers synthesized from, and microorganisms produced. The physical, mechanical, thermal, and barrier characteristics of biopolymers ascertain their quality.
There are several use cases and applications of the compounds to achieve sustainability such as, Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), that can be defined as "the packaging of a commodity in an atmosphere that has been modified so that its composition varies from that of air."
It comes up as a widely used technique in the packaging and preservation of agricultural products, by changing the gaseous composition in the package's headspace.
Another is active packaging, defined as "deliberately introducing components that would release or absorb substances into or from the packaged food or the surrounding environment." Chitosan and zein have mostly been utilized separately in the coating industry, but there have been a handful of studies with the two together. On the other hand, significant research is being conducted on the applications and advantages of essential oils in paper coatings to be able to manufacture antimicrobial, repellent, and oil-resistant materials.
According to some studies, essential oils have a high potential as natural pesticides. Several studies have shown that even rosemary essential oil can be effectively used as a natural insecticide in packaging materials (repellent, digestive, growth retardant).
Bioactive Ingredients as Plastic Alternatives:
Recently, In the study conducted by a group of scientists/researchers in co-ordination
with Magda Janalikova (Department of Environmental Protection Engineering, Faculty of Technology, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Czech Republic), thymol and three essential oils (thyme, cinnamon, oregano) have been analysed as bioactive ingredients having a good characteristic working against bacteria, yeasts, and fungi.
For harnessing a better purpose of biopolymer characteristics and advantages, a team of researchers led by Magda Janalikova has aimed to create various zein/chitosan-based film-forming solutions, films, and antimicrobial coatings for active food packaging.
Chitin produces chitosan, a non-toxic and widely used polysaccharide. Because of its
properties such as high crystallinity and hydrogen bonding between molecular chains with high oxygen barrier, anti-microbial, and mechanical properties, it has garnered attention for being used as food packaging for edible films and coatings.
Zein is a biodegradable natural polymer sourced from corn waste. Because of its molecular structure, zein has high water resistance; because of these tageous properties, researchers have been focusing on incorporating antioxidant and antimicrobial agents into zein coatings or films to create functional films for food applications.
Adding it all up!
Sustainability can help enormously in reducing the overall burden from our mother earth!
For these various solutions such as minimal use of plastics, producing biodegradable
materials for reducing the toxins and allergens is required. Sustainability has the potential to decrease the load of using resources significantly and eventually will help in maintaining the ecosystem.
Dr. Deepti Tayal, is the director of Ingenious e-Brain Solutions, a company that provides search and analytics solutions. She has more than nine years of experience maintaining client relationships with IP law firms, innovator companies, and research organizations by delivering high-quality services at every step of the business.
LinkedIn Id: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepti-tayal-phd/