Innovation That Matters

The new coating can be used to 'shrink-wrap' foods like avocadoes | Photo source Gil Ndjouwou on Unsplash

An antimicrobial plant-based coating to replace plastic food wrap

Food & Drink

The new coating could protect human health while tackling a major source of plastic waste

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Spotted: Carbon emissions, lack of recyclability, and water pollution are just some of the reasons why plastic food wrap and containers are problematic. Over the years Springwise has spotted a range of environmentally friendly alternatives to this form of packaging. But a recent study has explored an entirely novel approach to the problem.

A team of scientists led by Philip Demokritou at Rutgers University has developed a plant-based coating that can be sprayed on food to extend its shelf life and protect against pathogens.

The biodegradable coating is made from ‘stringy’ starch-based fibres that can be spun from a heating device that looks like a hairdryer. Using this method, food items of different shapes and sizes—from sirloin steaks to avocadoes—can be effectively ‘shrink-wrapped’ by the coating.

The antimicrobial agents contained in the material protect against microorganisms that cause illness and spoilage, while the coating is sufficiently strong to prevent bruising – reducing transportation damage.

The coating, which can be rinsed off with water, has been shown to extend the shelf life of avocados by 50 per cent. What’s more, the coating has been found to degrade in soil within three days.

“What we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibers that can wrap food directly,” explains Demokritou.

Other food preservation innovations spotted by Springwise include compostable packaging, a preservative that moderates the air around produce, and smart wrapping that releases natural compounds capable of killing E. Coli.

Written By: Katrina Lane



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