Researchers develop plant-based, spray-on food wrap to replace harmful plastics

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,223   +158
Staff member
Forward-looking: Researchers from Rutgers and Harvard have developed a plant-based, spray-on coating that could replace petroleum-laced plastic products in food packaging. The process, called focused rotary jet spinning, involves spraying a material comprised of polysaccharide / biopolymer-based fibers onto foods. Much like shrink wrap, the material conforms to the shape and size of the item and is robust enough to protect it against bruising during transportation.

The fibers contain naturally occurring antimicrobial agents including thyme oil, nisin and citric acid that protect against spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms like listeria and E. coli. In testing, the coating was able to extend the shelf life of avocados by 50 percent. The coating can easily be rinsed off with water and breaks down in soil within three days, virtually eliminating environmental concerns associated with the use of petroleum-based plastic containers and wrap.

The researchers' article has been published in the journal Nature Food.

"I'm not against plastics," said Philip Demokritou, director of the Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research Center at Rutgers. "I'm against petroleum-based plastics that we keep throwing out there because only a tiny portion of them can be recycled.

"Over the past 50 to 60 years, during the Age of Plastic, we've placed 6 billion metric tons of plastic waste into our environment. They are out there degrading slowly. And these tiny fragments are making it into the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe."

The research was funded by the Harvard-Nanyang Technological University / Singapore Sustainable Nanotechnology Initiative. There was no mention of commercializing the tech but that's no doubt the end goal.

Image credit: Mark Stebnicki, Tima Miroshnichenko

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There's already a company that's doing this or something like this in the field called Apeel. I know one of their use cases is a coating you can apply to English Cucumbers, which are traditionally individually wrapped in plastic.
 

netman

Posts: 798   +350
"Researchers develop plant-based, spray-on food wrap to replace harmful plastics"

And how does the spray work...? Answer: Aerosal...! Go Figure...!
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,904   +7,878
Sounds like a great invention. By the way, at the commercial level Aerosal's are not cost effecient and they are sprayed on with a fine mist much like your airless sprayers used for houses. I love the idea of making plastic containers but considering how quickly they break down it would not be feasable for long term storage, still to make some that would be used for short term it's great and needless to say, reduction of petro based materials is a BIG win for the consumer and the environment.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,406   +5,713
Oh Great. And plastic isn't harmful not disposing of it properly is
Even when *disposed* properly that plastic can still find it's way back into the environment, landfills are not airtight.

Single use plastic may be the most abhorrent result of the industrial revolution. All that oil wasted and landfill used on garbage that frankly should never have existed.
 

RudyBob

Posts: 613   +573
Even when *disposed* properly that plastic can still find it's way back into the environment, landfills are not airtight.

Single use plastic may be the most abhorrent result of the industrial revolution. All that oil wasted and landfill used on garbage that frankly should never have existed.
The nature of the universe is that everything finds it's way back. Plastic still is not the problem. It has great benefits in many areas. I do like your comment about single use plastic. And I am not being cute when I ask what could it be replaced with? I'd like to know.