Plastic packaging is widely used in the food industry, but it doesn’t always do a good job and creates a large amount of trash that sits in landfills or our oceans for years. To solve the downsides of plastic packaging, biodegradable alternatives have been studied and now scientists have come up with a way to use the milk protein casein to create a packaging film that is better at preventing spoilage, degradable and even edible.
Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the casein film has much smaller pores than current packaging options, making it up to 500 times better than plastics at locking out oxygen. Besides just reducing waste levels by increasing the shelf life of food, the milk protein-based packaging will biodegrade quickly or can just be eaten along with its contents.
During early development the researchers used pure casein, which they found it to be effective at blocking oxygen, but the material wasn't very flexible and dissolved too quickly in water. To combat this, the team added citrus pectin, used in other edible coatings, to make the film more durable and increase its resistance to heat and humidity. While it might not completely replace plastics, it could significantly cut down on the amount used and a sprayable version may open up further applications. The team continues to improve the film and hope to have the material on the market in the next three years.
SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Could this packaging option make a positive impact on manufacturing and consumer waste?
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