“We are excited to have found composites, which not only allow cellulose to turn into fluid condition but also are non-toxic, which is very important in all products related to food handling.”
Researchers at Lithuania-based Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) have created compostable packaging for food products from bioplastic.
The bioplastic created by the researchers is made from cellulose and is transparent, according to the researchers.
“We are used to getting our sandwiches, snacks, pastries, sweets and many other products in a paper bag with a plastic window,” said Dr. Paulius Pavelas Danilovas, the lead researcher at KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology.
He added: “Although paper is biologically degradable, it is complicated to separate paper from plastic, and the package is considered non-recyclable and non-compostable. However, if we made the window from biodegradable plastic, it could be composted. Moreover, we could even use the bag for collecting biodegradable waste and put all into the compost bin together.”
Compostability is a characteristic of a product that allows it to biodegrade under specific conditions under the influence of microorganisms.
“There are plenty of microorganisms in compost and they digest our plastic very well,” said Danilovas.
According to EU standards, in industrial compost centres, which sustain the temperature of 580°C, bioplastic degrades in half a year. However, in a compost bin at home, the process would take a couple of years.
According to researchers, the main challenge while creating bioplastic is not only to make it degradable but also transparent, as this quality is often required by customers.
“Usually, to become fluid plastic needs to be heated. However, if you heat paper (which is also based on cellulose) it will not only not become liquid, but will also burn! We are excited to have found composites, which not only allow cellulose to turn into fluid condition but also are non-toxic, which is very important in all products related to food handling”, said Danilovas.
Danilovas also explained that KTU’s biodegradable packaging is several times more expensive than conventional packaging. However, the growing number of eco-conscious users is encouraging industries to take an interest in biodegradable packaging alternatives.