Researchers using straw, grass and maize to develop biodegradable food packagingMarie Donlon | November 13, 2019
Scientists from Bangor University, Wales, in conjunction with scientists from Makerere University in Uganda are using byproduct from the farming industry — grass, straw and maize — to develop biodegradable packaging for eggs, fruits and vegetables.
The joint teams have been pulverizing the plant fibers from the plant waste and then shaping it into shallow trays much like the plastic kind already used to package fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. However, the plant-based trays are compostable, thereby creating one solution to the plastic packaging crisis affecting the world’s landfills and oceans.
In addition to benefiting the environment, the initiative uses waste maize, also called stover, from female farmers in Uganda to create the packaging, thereby offering them another source of income.
Already, University of Bangor scientists have successfully turned grass fibers into egg cartons using this method. Those eggs are sold in the Waitrose chain of supermarkets in the U.K.
Creating alternative plastic packaging from grass, maize and straw waste joins a growing trend of researchers and companies all over the world attempting to develop alternative materials to plastic packaging.
Recently, an India-based tech company created a material composed of banana leaves as an alternative to plastic fruit and vegetable packaging. Similarly, whisky-maker Glenlivet developed packaging alternatives by partnering with packaging startup Notpla to manufacture edible whisky capsules that are composed of seaweed. Meanwhile, a Mexico-based startup is transforming avocado pits into biodegradable cutlery, while a team from the University of Georgia is developing biodegradable straws.