In a press release published on May 19, 2020, the EU-funded YPACK project announced the development of a novel biodegradable food packaging with anti-bacterial properties able to prolong the shelf life of foods. Researchers within the consortium developed the compostable packaging material from the biopolymer poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV), which was produced from cheese whey and micro-cellulose from almond shells. Both ingredients are by-products of industrial food processes.
The PHBV polymer was used to make a thin “bio-paper”, and the addition of zinc oxide and oregano essential oil as active components into the paper provides antimicrobial properties against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. These anti-bacterial effects were shown in both open and closed packaging for up to 48 days, and the researchers see this as an opportunity to improve the shelf life of products in packaging that is opened and closed several times, such as bread and meat slices. The active components can also be used to produce PHBV trays or liners with active packaging properties.
The developed material is now undergoing consumer acceptance and shelf-life studies. Initial responses from consumers found no objection to the use of cheese whey and almond shells in packaging materials. YPACK is a three-year project that will conclude with a final conference in Brussels, Belgium on October 1, 2020.
YPACK (May 19, 2020). “EU project YPACK develops innovative biodegradable food packaging extending food shelf life.” (pdf)
YPACK (2020). “The YPACK Project.”