KTU researchers create biodegradable plastic for food packaging

A team of researchers from the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania have created a biodegradable plastic for packaging.

The biodegradable plastic, which takes two years to disintegrate with the help of microorganisms, is transparent and suitable for food packaging.

KTU lead researcher Dr Paulius Pavelas Danilovas said: “We are used to getting sandwiches, snacks, pastries, sweets and many other products in a paper bag with a plastic window.

“With a clear window on the front face, the products in the bag can be viewed easily. 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.

“There are plenty of microorganisms in compost and they digest our plastic very well.”

The researchers created the bioplastic at KTU laboratories using cellulose, which is a natural material usually derived from timber.

Cellulose is the main building block of plant cells’ membranes and also the most commonly found biopolymer.

Danilovas added: “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.”

Danilovas noted that the environmentally friendly biodegradable packaging is expensive.

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