Researchers at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST) in Assam, India have developed a biodegradable, biopolymer nanocomposite that can detect relative humidity, which they hope may have an application as smart packaging materials, especially for the food industry. The researchers used two biopolymers, guar gum (a variety of beans obtained from plants) and Alginate (obtained from brown algae), which were blended with carbon dots (nanomaterial) to make a nanocomposite film that was successfully used to detect relative humidity. The nanocomposite film shows change in fluorescence in presence of high humidity. Due to this property, the fabricated nanocomposite film can monitor the packed food freshness using just a UV light source. One of the research team said, ‘Smart and active packaging such as this can help consumers select a fresh product without breaking into the pack’. See also Gelatine-based antimicrobial plastic for food packaging in development.
This is one of many new developments reported in the Innovation Zone that utilises biopolymers that can help detect product freshness.
This has applications for Food products.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee have developed functional paper from pine needle waste, which could lead to sustainable food packaging in the future. Pine needles are said to be ideal for this research as they contain 41% cellulose, making them ideal for transformation into paper, but with an added function. This paper-based product has the ability to scavenge ethylene gas, due to an active compound incorporated in the paper. The researchers believe that by scavenging ethylene gas, this paper-based packaging can help extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables for at least an extra week. The net annual pine needle waste yield in the northern state of Uttarakhand is nearly 1.3 million tonnes. On the forest floor, the deep layer of dry pine needles is the leading cause of forest fires yearly in India, so this could be an ideal opportunity to transform them into a sustainable packaging material. see also Pine needles used to make biodegradable packaging material.
There have been a number of bio-based packaging initiatives reported in the innovation zone including the use of pine needles. We have also seen, sugar cane, coffee, tomato leaves, whey, shrimp, bamboo, pasta waste and more. There is a lot of surplus, unused material to be utilised.
This may have applications for products in the Food sector.
Brazilian and French scientists have combined to develop a biodegradable gelatin-based film that has been used to extend the shelf life of mozzarella successfully. The researchers incorporated cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), modified with pine resin, to the fragile structure of gelatin to strengthen it and produce film by the continuous casting process, a technique with low cost and high productivity. The films produced had a transparent and colourless format, important characteristics because they allow the consumer to gauge the quality of the product. The films showed optical and mechanical properties similar to conventional plastics, but with the advantage of having natural sources as raw material and therefore biodegradable. Another advantage is that the film is antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichacoli bacteria in accelerated laboratory tests. This can extend the shelf life in mozzarella cheese by up to one month. See also Gelatine-based antimicrobial plastic for food packaging in development.
This is an interesting development that has an additional benefit of an impressive shelf life extension. This would appear to be some way from any potential commercialisation.
This would have applications for Food products.
Finnish paper and pulp product manufacturer Stora Enso is to pilot production of a 100% bio-based alternative to petroleum-based PET at its Langerbrugge recycled paper mill near Ghent, Belgium. Currently, the pilot is in the final stages of commissioning. The plan is to produce the first material in the northern hemisphere’s autumn season and be in full production mode towards the end of the year. Stora Enso has been developing a breakthrough technology called FuraCore to produce FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid), an organic chemical compound that occurs in nature and is the key building block for bio-based plastics such as PEF (polyethylene furanoate). PEF can be used to produce a wide variety of industrial applications, including bottles, food packaging, textiles, carpets, electronic materials, and automotive parts. PEF is said to perform better than PET with a six times higher oxygen barrier, three times higher carbon dioxide barrier and two times higher water barrier.
This bio-based development offers strong barrier performances.
This clearly has opportunities primarily in the Beverage and Food sectors.
AIMPLAS is a technology centre based in Spain that focuses its research on the plastic industry. They are currently investigating the use of insect microbiomes for the recovery of plastic waste from multi-material packaging. Multilayer structures based on plastic are used for the unique properties they provide, such as sealing, structural and thermal stability, and impermeability. However, this makes them difficult to recycle, due to the different materials employed. AIMPLAS is researching the use of microbiomes from different insects as a tool for the recovery of plastic waste from multilayer packaging, as part of the ENTOMOPLAST project, funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI). They are investigating the use of the insects Locusta migratoria, Pachnoda butana, Plodia interpunctella and Galleria mellonella to accelerate the biodegradation of PE, PET and PU. See also Cicada wings bacteria-killing qualities inspires new food packaging format.
This is an interesting and unique development that could tap into a source with a plentiful supply.
This has applications for Food sector products.
The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is piloting a new transparent cellulose film that has been developed as a replacement for conventional plastic films. VTT can produce transparent, flexible, biodegradable cellulose film and the consumer apparently cannot distinguish between the crystal-clear material and traditional oil-based plastic. Cellulose film can resist dampness, but in nature, it reportedly disappears as completely as a sheet of paper does. Their cellulose product is biobased and biodegradable, therefore recycling is easy, as it can be placed in cardboard recycling along with other paper and board items. Although the consumer can’t distinguish between the crystal-clear material and traditional cellophane, their process for making cellulose film does not use the chemicals that conventional cellophane production requires. The production of this cellulose material is in the pilot phase, but VTT believe it could be in extensive industrial use in 5–7 years.
This initiative is potentially a few years away from a market application but could help guide other developments in this area.
This innovation has applications for Food sector products.
Japanese cosmetics company Kao is integrating chemically recycled PET by PET Refine Technology, a subsidiary of Jeplan, into the inner plate of the company’s compact powder foundations. The recycling process includes chemically breaking down discarded PET materials to eliminate impurities before recycling them and using them as the raw material for PET resin. The companies claim that this technique is advantageous since the material can be recreated with the same physical properties and quality as those derived from fossil-based material. The inner plate, which is currently constructed of virgin PET material, will be progressively replaced with chemically recycled PET of comparable quality. Kao aims to reduce the virgin plastic used in its makeup category through this effort. Kao’s initiative to reduce virgin plastic use includes encouraging the use of replacement and refill packs. The company had 380 refill and replacement items as of December 2021, with an 83% conversion rate. See also Cosmetic bottles switch to chemically recycled PET format.
Most of the recycling initiatives posted in the Innovation Zone are mechanical recycling. We are starting to report more chemical recycling examples. This is part of a programme of activity in this area by Kao.
This has applications for PET products across sectors.
Three US businesses that control key points of the food supply chain have collaborated to create a flexible plastic packaging cycle through the use of resins with chemically recycled feedstock content attributed by certified mass balance. The three companies involved are ExxonMobil, which supply raw materials to Sealed Air, which then manufacture flexible packaging for products sold in Ahold Delhaize USA, the US branch of the Dutch group of the same name, a retail chain selling food products. The aim of the three companies is to avoid, as far as possible, the landfill of flexible packaging at the end of its life, waste that is difficult to recycle due to the multilayer and multi-material structure. This packaging will be collected, recovered and reused in new food packaging, ensuring the same performance and safety aspects as virgin plastic.
Chemical recycling advances will inevitably play an increased role and we watch this technological development with interest.
There will be opportunities to use this application across product sectors but mainly for Food packaging.
Japanese manufacturer of beverages and pharmaceutical products, Kirin Holdings has partnered with Tokyo-based Meiji University researchers to demonstrate a set of electric chopsticks that can boost people’s perception of saltiness. The researchers say that the “electric taste sensation” system pairs one regular chopstick with another that’s connected to a wrist-worn power supply and control computer. Apparently, the system uses very weak electricity, not enough to affect the human body – to adjust the function of ions such as sodium chloride and sodium glutamate to change the perception of taste by making food seem to taste stronger or weaker. Gel “food” samples were given to participants, with precisely measured salt levels representing “normal” salted food and a reduced-salt version with some 30% less salt in it. When the device was turned on, subjects rated the reduced-salt food as slightly saltier than the “normal” food, on a “saltiness intensity evaluation point” scale. See also Taste-altering spoon is the invention you never knew you needed.
This is a fascinating development. Getting a child to consume something healthy, for example, could now be a lot more straightforward
This has opportunities for Food and Pharmaceutical sector products.
Recycling optimisation and sorting company Polysecure have collaborated with plastic producers Röchling to create a new innovation called SmartMarker, which is designed to aid in the process of separating specific plastics in order to recycle more efficiently. The solution is not only useful for recycling – the SmartMarker tech can offer counterfeit protection as well. It works by giving their plastic products a unique identifier made of tiny marker particles, which are fully transparent and do not affect the properties of the product in any way. This allows them to track the origins of the material as well as separate it from other materials for easier recycling.
This is one of several marker technologies in development that aim to improve recycling separation as well as having anti-counterfeit opportunities.
This has opportunities for a range of Food, Beverage, Household, Pet Care and Health & Beauty sector products.