Farayde Fakhouri, researcher at the Centre Català del Plàstic (CCP) a TECNIO centre, has created a biodegradable, edible, natural packaging for the food sector. This packaging has been created from plant-based raw materials to promote the circular economy and guarantee the properties that protect food and extend its useful life.
The sustainable packaging comes from plant-based sources comprised of natural compounds that have a range of properties. When they are combined with other materials, these compounds can modify the interaction of food with the atmosphere. This prolongs the life of food. The packaging material is a more sustainable alternative to plastics. According to Fakhouri, the project is designed to respond to the “enormous global waste of foods, which is calculated to be 33% of total production and 45% of fruit and vegetables, according to data from Stop Food Waste Day in 2019. Our motivation has been to contribute to the development of biodegradable, edible packaging that helps to extend the useful life of foods and is also environmentally friendly”, explained Fakhouri, an engineer and PhD in food technology.
As part of this project, which was developed over two years, strawberries from the Maresme region were used to test how efficiently the packaging can keep the fruit in a good state. According to Fakhouri, it was established that “the use of this material as a covering for strawberries increased their useful life as it increased the resistance of the fruit to mould, reduced the loss of mass, and conserved the original appearance for longer.”
Currently, doctor Fakhouri and the research group Polyfunctional Polymeric Materials (Poly2) at the UPC, which is led by doctor José Ignacio Velasco, are validating their first formulations to develop new prototypes of packaging materials. In addition, the project was selected to participate in the Barcelona Technology Transfer Group programme of the IESE Business School, which is supported by ACCIÓ, to accelerate the transfer of the product to the market.
The project was backed by ACCIÓ via the TECNIOspring programme, which promotes the incorporation of talented, experienced people into Catalan companies and research and development institutions. With a budget of ten million euros provided by ACCIÓ and the European Commission, this initiative, as part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions in the Horizon 2020 programme, finances up to 100% of the hiring of researchers to promote research and development in companies and technology transfer in Catalonia. Using this financial aid, the Centre Català del Plàstic (CCP) hired the Brazilian researcher Farayde Fakhouri in 2017 to develop the project together.