Materials and technologies – April 2021

04 May 2021

Bioplastics made from seaweed and by-products
Ural Federal University reports that a group of scientists has created edible food films for packaging based on the naturally occurring seaweed biopolymer sodium alginate. The research (abstract) is published in the Journal of Food Engineering. ACS researchers are making plastics from waste fish parts.
Researchers from Yale School of the Environment have created a high-quality bioplastic from wood by-products. The bioplastic can be moulded into a film that can be used in packaging for example. An article about the research is published in Nature Sustainability. A doctorate thesis recently defended at the University of Aveiro proposes new ways for the exploitation of broccoli by-products, including packaging. An overview article (2.41 MB) published in Foods from the same university discusses coffee by-products and their suitability for developing active food packaging materials.

Bioplastics and bio-based sensors
SGS reports that China has released a new standard on the terminology, definition and identification of bio-based material. More information about GB/T 39514-2020 can be found here. The University of British Columbia has created a fully compostable coffee pod. Scientists at the University of Sheffield are up-scaling production of a selection of the bio-based materials for packaging developed in the ECOFUNCO project for potential commercialisation: Bacterial Cellulose and Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). In an article (1.26 MB) published in Sensors, researchers at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa give an overview of bio-based sensors for smart food packaging.

The University of Maine has been issued a patent for a process to create biodegradable paper composite laminates bound with cellulose nanofibrils. The resulting product is strong, stiff and board-like. Applications include packaging.
MSU has created a new coating without plastic that protects paper food packaging from oil and water. An article (abstract) is published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.

Food packaging
According to research by Ghent University (in Dutch), some food packaging can be made simpler (less layers) without affecting the shelf life and safety. Arizona State University researchers are working on the creation of dendritic tags to securely identify food at any point in the supply chain. Dendrites are tree-like shapes that have a high degree of entropy, so no two dendrites are exactly the same. Application could include labelling every head of lettuce with the identity of the farm, field and row from which it is sourced.

Number of EU patents for packaging material increased by 148 since March 2020
The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that they received 180,250 patent applications in 2020, 0.7% less than in 2019. You can read more in the online EPO Patent Index 2020. The European patent register holds 2,490 patents with the search term ‘packaging material’ (search done by NVC on 22 March 2021). This is an increase of 148 in a years’ time. On 16 March 2020 NVC did the same search and that resulted in 2,342 patents.

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.

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