A team of scientists at the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) has come up with a biodegradable food packaging material that protects food and extends its shelf while being kind to the environment.
In a statement, the DOST said green packaging technology will not only help address the disposal of food packaging wastes but will also benefit the packaging and plastic industries in the country.
While plastic food packaging protects and extends shelf life of food and offers convenience to consumers, plastics are not biodegradable and pose harm to the environment. When disposed of indiscriminately, plastics clog waterways and contribute to flooding. Plastics that find their way to oceans cause serious harm to marine wildlife which mistake them for food.
The biodegradable food packaging material is made possible via the science called nanotechnology in which things are structured at the atomic and molecular levels, Dr. Blessie A. Basilia , chief of ITDI’s Material Sciences Division , said.
The biodegradable film is made from starch and clay, both locally available materials, Basilia said.
Clay comes in layers tightly held together, so it is processed first so that it can blend effectively with starch. Clay is treated with ions in a process called ion exchange which results in wider spaces between the layers of the clay. This treated clay is called organoclay or nanoclay, its commercial name.
Nanoclay is blended with thermoplastic starch made from cornstarch to help increase the latter’s strength. The clay-plastic blend goes through the same process and equipment in making petroleum-based plastics.
The resulting product passed the migration test required for packaging films which means that the materials in the product will not contaminate the food it is in contact with.
Nanotechnology is one of DOST’s priority among emerging technologies through its sectoral council Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development which funded and monitored the project. (Ma. Luisa S. Lumioan, S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)