Materials and technologies – April 2020

07 May 2020

Food packaging and COVID-19
The US FDA has published guidelines on food safety and COVID-19 stating that currently there is no evidence of food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Iowa State University researchers state the same.

A chemistry start-up will be taking a new Purdue University adhesive technology to the market. The adhesive was engineered to mimic the glue that mussels naturally use to attach to substrates in the ocean.

Sensor for monitoring fruit and vegetables
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have created a tiny sensor that can detect low concentrations of ethylene. The sensor, which is made from carbon nanotubes, could be used to monitor fruit and vegetables as they are shipped and stored, helping to reduce food waste. An article (2.24 MB) about the research is published in ACS Central Science.

Bioplastics – olive stones and potato processing side products
Project GO-Oliva, launched by AIMPLAS in collaboration with OLIPE, is looking at the feasibility of using olive stones to make a new bioplastic called Oliplast. Oliplast can be used to manufacture new packaging materials for oil and oil products. WUR researcher Lars Kiewidt has received an NWO grant to make chemicals and materials out of renewable biomass using electricity. For example, the processing of potatoes creates a side-stream with a lot of starch. Kiewidt aims to build chemicals from this starch, to produce bio-based coatings for the paper industry. The University of Houston reports a new method to produce polyolefins allowing plastics to be produced from food oils and other natural substances. An article (abstract) is published in Angewandte Chemie.

VTT has developed a material that can be used in food packaging similarly to plastic due to its thermoformable properties.
On 26 March 2020, Nienke van Steenderen de Kok held a speech entitled ‘Packaging design against photodegradation - developing a light stability test setup and reference model’ as part of her master assignment at the University of Twente. Chairman of the assessment committee was professor Roland ten Klooster who holds the NVC Chair Packaging Design and Management.
A Brightlands Materials Center research program aims to accelerate the development of new circular packaging solutions by focussing on better material choices to create plastic packaging with enhanced recyclability. The center is a joint initiative of TNO and the Province of Limburg.
Off-odours in plastic recyclates prevent a closed cycle for the recycling of plastic packaging. Fraunhofer researchers analysed the sensory properties of post-consumer LDPE shopping bags. They found that the collection system has a large bearing on the odour quality with separate collection showing significant benefits. An article (abstract) is published in Waste Management.

Prices for plastics
Dutch trade magazine Vraag en Aanbod publishes a weekly overview of the prices for plastics (in Dutch). The prices given are estimated averages between the gross prices published in the trade journals and the net prices.
In a recent article, ICIS looks at the impact of COVID-19 on key European recycling markets.

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