dispatches from Innovations in Food Packaging, Shelf Life and Food Safety

Packaging going bananas and questions on biodegradable alternatives

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

The event (15-17 September) is in Erding, Germany
The event (15-17 September) is in Erding, Germany
Packaging made from bananas, hygienic design cost saving opportunities and potential of biodegradable packaging materials to solve plastic end of life problems were some of the subjects at the first day of an international conference.

Z.A. Nur Hanani, from the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), presented her work with N.H. Azmi on using banana peel (wastes) as biodegradable packaging films.

Knuth Lorenzen, president of the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG), gave an analysis of potential savings in cleaning in place (CIP) of food plants through hygienic design based on work by Andreas Dorner, Technical University Munich.

Horst-Christian Langowski, technische Universitaet Muenchen, talked about the challenges for food packaging in the next decades.

Banana-based packaging

The speakers above and many others talked about their work at the Innovations in Food Packaging, Shelf Life and Food Safety conference in Erding, Germany.

The event is jointly organised by Elsevier and Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV. Food Packaging and Shelf Life is an Elsevier journal.

Z.A. Nur Hanani developed biodegradable films from banana peel flour by casting process using glycerol, sorbitol and polyethylene glycol (PEG) as plasticizers.

The films produced were homogeneous and opaque presenting a dark green and brownish in colour.

Banana peel films with PEG at 40% showed low water vapour permeability (WVP) value and films with 10% PEG showed higher tensile strength (TS) and Young’s modulus (EM) (P <0.05) followed by ones with 10% and 20% of glycerol.

She concluded banana films showed a good seal ability so could be suitable as sachets or pouches for dry food and an alternative to plastic materials.

Upfront cost deters hygienic design

In his talk, Lorenzen said he chose the topic because hygienic design is not taught at universities so students who come from an engineering background have no idea about the subject.

With Dorner, they compared hygienic design versus T-piece designs looking at valves and sensor connections to give guidance to the food processor when they are looking for components, to ensure effective and easy cleanability.

Lorenzen said non-hygienic design is responsible for up to 20% of GMP claims and the cleaning process can consume up to 70% of total water consumption and water treatment.

“Hygienic design offers savings in operating costs, shorter cleaning time which means more production time, reduce chemicals, additives, power, steam, fuel consumption and water treatment costs and water.

“Hygienic design improves cleaning and sterilization via improvements in mass flow and heat transfer from the CIP-liquids.”

End of life food packaging

Langowski said what looks to be a chance for biopolymers because of current end of life issues with plastics, could actually be a step backwards for efficiency of packaging as a whole depending on possible legislation.

Pollution of the environment by plastic litter is an area of high focus and biodegradable materials are seen as a solution to the problem, he said.

The political measure prompting action has mainly affected plastics shopping bags so far but Langowski said it could be a model for the rest of plastic packaging with levies/fees or mandatory sales prices, partial or total bans and the negative image it gives to public opinion.

The functional gap of bio-based plastic to present plastic and multi-material is ‘huge’, he said, adding it will take ‘decades’ until large-scale economic production of highly functional bioplastic packaging materials will be established.

Langowski called on the food and packaging industry to intensify efforts around end of life such as recycling and recovery of packaging waste and warned if they failed, consumer pressure could force legislation.

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