banner
BioPeel packaging
photo courtesy of Brunel University

Waste and plastic pollution are two sustainability issues top of mind for many in the food industry. Denny Handley, recent design graduate from Brunel University London, has developed packaging that may help with both issues. BioPeel is a material composed of dehydrated orange peels mixed with a pre-existing biopolymer made up of vegetable glycerin, corn starch, potato starch, and water. It is then hardened through a process of molding, baking, and drying.

Why orange peels? Initially, the idea stemmed from research into processes that naturally produced waste in the food industry, such as the masses of waste from making orange juice. “Initially I had the idea that you could use all the waste produced making one liter of orange juice to create the carton,” said Handley. “But the material itself steadily degrades in water, so I looked for other applications for it.”

The liquid biopolymer is partly absorbed by the peels thereby creating strong bonds across it and drastically increasing the materials compressive and tensile strength. “It’s really strong—when we tested it, it took over half a ton of compressive strength on certain samples,” said Handley.

The final product looks a lot like a pie crust, and given the appearance, Handley believes it’s more suited for farmers’ markets and takeout rather than the grocery store. The material’s properties also make it ideal for other applications like packing crates and even furniture.

The beauty of BioPeel is that it utilizes two waste products—orange peels from orange juice production and vegetable glycerin from biodiesel production—and provides a single-use packaging solution that doesn’t require plastic and can give the energy used to make the packaging back into the environment after use. Unfortunately, it is also a lot heavier than plastic and perhaps not as visually appealing to consumers.

So, while the material would need further development to make it commercially feasible, it serves as a reminder that innovation and solutions to the food industry’s most pressing problems can be found everywhere—even in the trash.

More from IFTNEXT right arrow

New appliance refrigerates, stores, and cooks meals

Before the emergence of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, one of the biggest complaints of busy individuals was not having time to prepare and cook balanced meals. A new appliance shows promise in solving that problem—for those who can afford it.

How ripe is your produce? This sensor can tell you

Researchers at MIT have developed a sensor to monitor the plant hormone ethylene to determine when fruits and vegetables are about to spoil.

NASA technology put to use to make ‘meat’ from air

Air Protein has developed a method of making meat analogues out of carbon dioxide. Based on NASA ideas about how to grow food on board long journey spacecraft, Air Protein says its technology can create protein in a matter of hours and without the use of any arable land.

New ways of farming reaping big rewards

During 2019, venture capitalist firms invested $745 million in novel farming systems in 75 deals, an increase of 38% over 2018, according to AgFunder’s sixth annual Agri-FoodTech Investing Report.

Latest News right arrow

Report identifies regenerative agriculture opportunities

A just-released report from the nonprofit group Forum for the Future highlights ways in which regenerative agriculture can help make the food system more resilient.

International scientists propose eight elements to accelerate innovation in the food system

An international group of almost 50 scientists identified 75 emerging innovations and drew up eight action points to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and healthy food system.

Apeel Sciences receives $250 million in financing

Startup company Apeel Sciences has announced $250 million in new financing led by GIC.

Fresh Del Monte Produce opens fresh-cut plant in Japan

Fresh Del Monte Produce has announced that its subsidiary Fresh Del Monte Japan has begun operations in its newly completed plant in Yokohama, Japan.

Tate & Lyle sets new environmental targets

Tate & Lyle, a supplier of food and beverage ingredients and solutions, has announced a set of new environmental targets and commitments.