Edible and biodegradable food packaging

”As edible food packaging is trying to turn down our plastic and tin foil consumption to save the world, some businesses are already traversing more radical with edible packaging. Edible packaging is also environment-friendly.”

Edible and biodegradable food packagingBiodegradable seems to be the buzz word these days, although many of the products that claim to be easily decomposed. A major group of substitute and novel materials which possess future profitable potential are those derived from food waste for useful utilization purpose.

Therefore, this type of packaging materials is not only biodegradable in nature, edible also with a lot of nutritional importance, in that way presenting superior opportunities for commercial application.


The aim of food packaging is the quality preservation and to assure safety of food it contains from the time of manufacture to the time of its consumption by consumer.

Protection from physical, chemical or biological damage is also an important function of packaging. Polyethylene or co-polymer based materials are most common packaging materials that meet these criteria have been used by food industry over 50 years.

These materials are not only safe, versatile, inexpensive but also flexible. Many applications such as packaging, building materials and commodities as well as hygiene products use plastics extensively.

However, indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste which results is environmental pollution has assumed a global magnitude.  However, plastic food packaging material is meant to be discarded with minute quantity being recycled is one of the prime limitations.

These typical plastics that are derived from petroleum synthetically are not promptly biodegradable and are assumed as environmentally catastrophic waste. Most polymers are strikingly durable and exhibit a severe environmental threat particularly in urban areas.

One possibility for the administration of plastic waste is the utilization of biodegradable commodities. The degradation of final product is enhanced by the development of new biodegradable polymer blends.

The utilization of biopolymers depends on inexhaustible assets and contributes to material cycling that is analogous to the natural biogeochemical cycles in nature. Notwithstanding the above environmental issues, food packaging has been affected by remarkable changes in food distribution, including globalization of the food supply,

Customer trends for more convenient and fresh foods, as well as aspiration for better and safer quality foods, as well as a craving for more secure and better quality foods. Given these and recently referenced issues, consumers are demand in that food packaging materials be progressively natural, disposable, conceivably biodegradable, just as recyclable.

Need of biodegradable packaging

Approximately 3.5 million tons of garbage is produced by global consumer per day. Projections for where we are directing are even more alarming; that rate is expected 6 million tons per day by the year 2025, and reach 11 million tons by the year 2100.

Around 25 percent of this waste is produced in America and one third of that is due to packaging, which can remain in landfills for hundreds to thousands of years before rotting.

Non-biodegradable packaging harms the environment at the two closures of its life cycle. At the point when non-biodegradable packaging is made, it produces pollution and utilizes oil and other non-inexhaustible resources. At that point when non-biodegradable packaging achieves a mind-blowing finish, it is disposed of and generates waste that can destroy biological systems and sit for many years.

This issue is alleviated by both biobased and biodegradable materials. Biobased items are obtained from biodegradable materials and offer an option in contrast to typical petroleum based items.

Biodegradable products are capable of absolutely breaking down and decompose into natural substances with the help of biological agents such as bacteria and fungi within minimum period of time after disposal (usually a year or less).

Some compostable materials at their break down provide nutrients to the environment. Examples of biodegradable materials include paper products such as cotton, corrugated cardboard and plant fiber.

Non-biodegradable materials, on the other hand, are not able to break down or decompose rapidly such as plastic, glass, metal, medical waste and electronic devices that can lie for hundreds to even thousands of years in landfills.

Types of Biodegradable Packaging Material

Auspiciously there are several biodegradable packaging materials are available. These include

  • Paper and cardboard – paper and cardboard are biodegradable. There are various preferences to this sort of packaging product, not least the way that they are promptly accessible. Many packaging fabricating companies by using a high proportion of recycled paper offer an environment friendly option.
  • Corn starch – products produced using corn starch is biodegradable, perfect for items which have a confined use, for example, takeaway foods. They are great alternatives for a wide range of food packaging and furthermore make good packaging ‘peanuts’ to support and protect items when sent through the post. Corn starch packaging is biodegradable and has a very limited harmful impact on environment.
  • Bubble wrap -this is frequently used packaging stuff. Environment friendly alternatives comprise of completely degradable bubble wrap and bubble wrap produced from recycled polythene.
  • Biodegradable plastic – now this is usually used in plastic bags and also utilized in envelopes used for massive mailing. This type of plastic when exposed to sunlight starts to decompose and an ideal alternative to conventional plastics.

Advantage of biodegradable packaging

  1. Minimizes your carbon footprint

Eco-friendly packaging is made up of recycled waste material which diminishes the utilization of assets and a perfect option for environment. Don’t concentrate on your monetary objectives but also try to achieve your environmental goals.

  1. Easy Disposal

The kind of packaging you use may diversify however it should be either compostable or recyclable. If some of your clients or associates happen to have manure facilities then you can transform the waste packaging into compost. The packaging can be thrown into recycle bin for re-use if it is clearly labeled as recyclable packaging.

  1. Biodegradable

Green packaging not only minimizes environmental effect and carbon footprint but is also favorable after it has performed its function as it is biodegradable.

  1. Flexible and Versatile

Eco-friendly packaging is really flexible and can be re-utilized and re-purposed in most significant industries that include packaging. Whatever you are hoping to package directly from meats to electronic gadgets, there will be an eco-friendly sort of packaging that will address their issues and decrease costs.

  1. Promotes your brand image

Eco-friendly packaging makes a decent impression of your organization as this shows you care about the environment as well as interpreting that you are a mind full organization. An ongoing report found that 78% of clients between the ages of 18-72 felt progressively positive about an item whose packaging was comprised of reused items.

  1. No catastrophic plastics

Conventional packaging strategies and materials support to global warming and other environmental problems. Utilizing eco-friendly packaging enables you to minimize the measure of plastic that you use.

Utilizing non-feasible petrochemical assets which are a part of every single conventional plastic requires a lot of vitality. Petrochemical items generally tend to litter open places and have been associated with medical issues when utilized with food.

  1. Minimizing shipping expenditures

Decreasing your delivery costs lessens the measure of crude materials that are utilized to package the items and less packaging materials prompts less exertion being used.

  1. Can help save money

Paper shredders are an extraordinary method to appropriately dispose of any waste packaging, making it simpler for the packaging to biograde a lot quicker. Modern shredders are an incredible choice on the off chance if you are expecting to shred high volumes of your waste packaging quick.

  1. Expands your customer base

According to various global studies the interest for feasible eco-friendly commodities rise up every day. All adults who were born after 1990 prefer to go eco-friendly and sustainability when it comes to making their purchasing decisions. Becoming environmentally viable will draw in more clients that will continue returning relying upon your frame of mind to the environment.

  1. It can be reduced, reused and recycled sustainable

The major part of the materials can be classified in the 3 essential R’s of sustainability.

  • Reduce: these spotlights on utilizing tougher and thinner materials which can do a similar activity with fewer materials.
  • Reuse: there are significantly more items are accessible that support their reuse, for example, boxes with a unique coating to make them tougher. You can utilize the economics of taking advantages of reuse abilities.
  • Recycle: significantly more items are being fabricated with a huge volume of them being comprised of reused materials which can be reused effectively too and have been marked in that capacity. Most manufacturers do this as it enables them to limit the effect of cost increments on new or virgin materials.

The limitations of edible packaging

Because of their inferior physical characteristics edible films have limited application primarily. For example, single, lipid based films contain no mechanical strength but have excellent moisture barrier properties. Consequently, laminated films were formed by complying two or more biopolymer films together.

However, due to their possession of enhanced barrier properties laminated films are preferred over single, emulsion based biopolymer films. The production of laminated structures can possibly defeat these deficiencies by engineering edible/biodegradable films with different functional layers.

Edible coatings and films relying on water soluble proteins are usually water soluble themselves but have superb lipid, oxygen and flavor boundary properties. In multi component systems, proteins act as cohesive structural matrix, resulting coatings and films with excellent mechanical properties.

On the other hand, lipids serve as an excellent moisture barrier, but possess meager lipid, gas and flavor barriers.  By consolidating lipids and proteins in emulsion or bilayer (a film comprising of two molecular layers), the positive traits of both can be joined and the negatives limited.

From the research conducted by the Food Packaging Group at UCC, the general characteristics of developed edible/biodegradable films are as follows:

  • Thickness of manufactured edible/biodegradable films range from 25μm to 140μm
  • Films can be clear, transparent, and translucent or opaque depending on the ingredients used and the processing technique employed
  • Aging specific film types under controlled environmental conditions improved mechanical properties and gas barrier properties
  • Storing films at ambient condition (18-23°C, 40- 65 per cent RH) for five years did not significantly alter structural characteristics
  • Films formed from various ingredients can be relatively easily laminated together
  • Manufactured films can be labeled, printed on or heat sealed
  • Small variations in film microstructure (e.g. biopolymer phase separation) affects film properties


The manufacturing of consumable/biodegradable films is frequently done at research level and the commercial utilization of films is restricted at present. Research is right now progressing, however, it is anticipated that the use of edible/biodegradable packaging materials in foods has a blazing future as consumable/biodegradable packaging can offer a characteristic assurance of quality to foods as indicated by explicit packaging prerequisites.

In spite of the gratification of edible/biodegradable materials which have been introduced by researchers, various impediments in their advancement potential must be overcome, for example, cost viability, improved water vapor porousness hindrance and mechanical application strategies.

Full commercial manufacturing and implementation is still some way off, however the potential that eatable/biodegradable films have is currently being figured it out.

Authors: Aimen Shabbir and Muhammad Arslan Akram

University of Agriculture Faisalabad

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