Plastic can be an important component of food packaging as it can create a barrier against nasties such as bacteria, as well as liquids and gasses. This can help to prolong the shelf life of many foods, thus preventing waste.
However, given the finite resources of petroleum-based polymers, which are used to make conventional plastic food packaging, as well as the huge scale of plastic waste exceeding 150 million tonnes annually worldwide, it is important that alternative and eco-friendly materials are developed.
Now Curtin University researchers have developed eco-friendly films that, when used in food packaging, can prolong the shelf life of fruits such as avocados and peaches, offering potential benefits to fresh produce growers and retailers as well as the environment.
The research, published in Composites Part B: Engineering, found polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) bionanocomposite films were biodegradable and served as a significantly more efficient barrier against water vapour, air and oxygen — all of which reduce the shelf life of foodstuffs and the rate of fungi growth.
Lead author PhD student Mrs Zainab Waheed Abdullah, from the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Curtin University, said the research team had developed novel bionanocomposite films that served as a significantly more effective barrier to conditions which contribute to the fruit “going old” more quickly.