In Brazil, researchers at São Paulo State University have made a food packaging material from gelatin, clay and black pepper essential oil. They say the material is edible, biodegradable, anti-microbial and higher performing than petro-based incumbents.
The group, comprised of scientists at the University’s Composites and Hybrid Nanocomposites Group, used widely available gelatin as a base. Nanoclay was added to give the film double the strength of conventional polyethylene packaging films, and a nano emulsion of black pepper essential oil helped improve flavor and extend shelf life.
“Gelatin was one of the first materials used in the production of biopolymers. It’s still widely used owing to its abundance, low cost and excellent film-forming properties,” says chemist and materials scientist Márcia Regina de Moura Aouada. This iteration of the material was specifically designed to package beef, of which Brazil is a major producer, but could be applied to other food products.
“If this kind of packaging becomes widespread in the marketplace, it could significantly reduce the use of plastic made from non-biodegradable polymers and hence the amount of solid waste,” Moura Aouada adds.
The research team is also working on edible packaging containing nanostructures derived from kale purée, cocoa purée, cupuassu purée, and camu camu extract.