Friday, July 1, 2022

A cellulose protective coating for fruit and vegetables

Ecological coating for fruits and vegetables.

Plastic packaging is extremely wasteful and impacts the earth’s ecosystems, on which we depend. Most plastic waste is sent to landfills or disposed of into the environment.

Hence, many retailers are looking for ways to do without plastic packaging for food. The retailer Lidl Switzerland and Empa scientists have developed a protective coating for fruit and vegetables based on renewable raw materials.

The coating is made from so-called pomace – squeezed fruit and vegetable peels. According to scientists, the project can reduce packaging and prevent food waste. Plus, it keeps fruits and vegetables fresh significantly longer.

Scientists spent more than a year in Empa’s Cellulose & Wood Materials laboratory to develop this cellulose coating. In testing with bananas, the layer extended the shelf life of bananas by more than a week. This significantly reduces food waste.

Gustav Nyström, head of the Empa lab, said, “The big goal is that such bio-coatings will be able to replace a lot of petroleum-based packaging in the future.”

cellulose material
The cellulose material is extracted from squeezed fruit and vegetable peels. Image: Manifesto Films, Lidl Schweiz

Scientists developed the coating by processing pomace into fibrillated cellulose. The coating is either sprayed onto the fruit or applied to the product as a dip and is easy to wash off.

What’s more, it can also be consumed without harm. It is harmless to the consumer.

Scientists noted“The potential of cellulose coatings is by no means exploited yet; there is the possibility of adding additives such as vitamins or antioxidants.”

The cellulose layer developed at Empa will be tested and further improved over the next two years with Lidl Switzerland and a fruit and vegetable supplier. The aim is for the new technology to be used in all 150 Lidl stores throughout Switzerland following the successful main trial.

Journal Reference:

  1. Luana Amoroso et al. Sustainable Cellulose Nanofiber Films from Carrot Pomace as Sprayable Coatings for Food Packaging Applications. DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c06345
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