Home Article BIOPOLYMERS IN PACKAGING OF FOOD

BIOPOLYMERS IN PACKAGING OF FOOD

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Image of packaged orange with woman hand in the supermarket

Foods are primarily packaged to protect them from the environment and to provide ingredient and nutritional information to the consumers. Traceability, convenience, marketing and tamper identification are secondary functions of increasing importance. Glass, metals (aluminium, foils and laminates, tinplate, and tin-free steel), paper and paperboards, and plastics have been traditionally used as a material for food packaging. Majority of these packaging materials are non biodegradable. Packaging has maximum contribution to total solid wastes at 31.2%. Food packaging alone accounts for almost two-thirds of total packaging waste by volume (Marsh and Bugusu, 2007). Tons of goods, made of plastic materials, are land-filled, increasing every year the problem of municipal waste disposal (Kirwan and Strawbridge, 2003). Plastic packaging for food and non-food applications is non-biodegradable, and also uses up valuable and scarce non-renewable resources like petroleum. Various ecological problems have risen due to rampant use of non biodegradable plastic. Although their complete replacement with eco-friendly packaging films is just impossible to achieve, at least for specific applications like food packaging the use of bio-plastics should be the future. There is increased demand among consumers for natural, biodegradable and reusable packaging materials. The use of these biopolymer-based materials can solve the waste disposal problem to some extent. The biopolymers used in packaging are referred to as “bio-plastics” or “green plastics”. The natural biopolymers that are used in food packaging have the advantages to be available from replenishable resources, biocompatible, biodegradable, and all this characteristics led to ecological safety (Prashanth and Tharanathan, 2007). Biopolymer-based packaging materials originated from naturally renewable resources such as polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids or combinations of those components have the potential to replace current synthetic plastics (Sothornvit, 2009). At this moment, bio-plastics cover approximately 5–10% of the current plastic market (Vieira et al., 2011).

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