Materials and technologies - June 2019

27 June 2019

Is my food fresh? - Sensors and indicators
Researchers at Imperial College London have developed low-cost, smartphone-linked spoilage sensors for meat and fish packaging. Known as ‘paper-based electrical gas sensors’ (PEGS), they detect spoilage gases like ammonia and trimethylamine. The researchers say the sensors could eventually replace the ‘use-by’ date – a less reliable indicator of freshness and edibility. An article (3.41 MB) about the research is published in ACS Sensors.
Scientists at Cornell University are designing the milk carton of the future. The milk cartons will likely have a QR code that would offer specific information about that milk, such as the originating farm, as well as a separate indicator that records carton temperature and time. Retailers and consumers could scan both the QR code and the indicator; an app would then quickly calculate how much longer the milk will last.

Packaging made from food waste
New technology developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo engineers natural fermentation of wasted food to produce a biodegradable chemical that can be refined as a source of energy. The chemical could also be used to replace petroleum-based chemicals in a host of products including drugs and plastic packaging. An article (abstract) about the research is published in Bioresource Technology.
Bio-Peel, a new material unveiled by design student Denny Handley at Brunel University London, blends waste orange peels with a mixture of other biodegradable products to create a new packaging material that’s strong, malleable and environmentally friendly.

Insights into controversial biodegradable plastic bag study and more
In the May MOU we reported that researchers at the University of Plymouth found that biodegradable plastic bags are still capable of carrying shopping after being exposed in the natural environment for 3 years. We also reported that the study has caused a quite a bit of controversy. Packaging Europe invited François de Bie from European Bioplastics, and Professor Richard Thompson from the team at the University of Plymouth, to give their respective takes on the study and its conclusions.
ACS has reported on Purdue University research showing that PFAS can leach from compostable food containers into compost.
Neste and LyondellBasell have announced commercial-scale production of bio-based plastic from renewable materials.

Developments in food packaging
Researchers at Oxford University have developed a nanosheet-based barrier coating as an alternative to the metallised films used in packaging for food like crisps or candy. This new coating formulation is recyclable, non-toxic and highly efficient at preventing oxygen and water vapour from getting to the food. An article (1.52 MB) about the research is published in Nature Communications.
A large-scale manufacturing process developed by Purdue University researchers to improve food packaging and keep groceries fresher longer has received top honors during the technical conference PaperCon 2019. More information about the research can be found here.

Weekly overview of 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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