Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Researcher has developed a bioplastic food wrap

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Dr. Qiang Liu is developing a new plant-based bioplastic that will keep meat, dairy, and other food products fresher longer.

It is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants.

It not only protects perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, but also is environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

Dr. Liu said he and others in the industry “saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster.

“We can extract all sorts of things such as starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project."

The bioplastic he developed has attributes similar to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. 

One challenge with some protein polymers is their sensitivity to moisture, so his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.

The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria such as E. coli from growing – but also, depending on how much was added, could change the porosity of the film.

The food industry might want to alter porosity, depending on the product and environmental conditions involved.