It would be better for the planet and the economy.
Call it what you like — cling wrap, plastic wrap, Saran wrap, or cling film — it is everywhere in our grocery stores and sometimes our homes. These plastic wraps help food stay fresh longer by sealing off the access to oxygen, but their effectiveness is limited.
Associate Professor Thian Eng San and PhD student Ms Tan Yi Min, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering from the National University of Singapore, have come up with an alternative that they have spent three years developing. They are proposing a natural packaging wrap that could potentially double the shelf-life of perishable food by slowing fungal growth.
The plastic wrap is made mainly from chitosan, a polymer derived from the exoskeletons of crustaceans. According to a press release, chitosan “has immense potential for applications in food technology, owing to its biocompatibility, non-toxicity, short time biodegradability and excellent film forming ability.” The researchers are further fortifying it with grapefruit seed extract which is an antioxidant with “antiseptic, germicidal, antibacterial, fungicidal and anti-viral properties.”
That sounds like a lot of factors in its favor! As usual, once the new packaging is deemed safe, customers are the ones to please.
“Consumers are also demanding that packaging materials be formulated from natural materials that are environmentally friendly and biodegradable while improving food preservation. This novel food packaging material that we have developed has the potential to be a useful material in food technology,” said Thian in the press release.
The researchers’ claims have yet to be peer reviewed, but things look promising. The new wrap won’t just help you save money by allowing you to buy food in larger quantities and limit waste — it could have positive impacts on the planet and economy as well.
“Extending the shelf-life of food products also means reducing food waste, and as a result, reducing the rate of global food loss. This will bring about both environmental and economic benefits,” said Tan.
The team will continue to do more research before making the packaging commercially available. They plan to test it with different foods and further experiment with its degradability.