A new study by researchers at Oregon State University details a key advance in turning apple waste into an environmentally friendly packaging material that could serve as an alternative to plastic. The researchers report their advance in a paper in Food and Bioproducts Processing. Recycled newspaper has traditionally been the main ingredient of so-called molded pulp packaging products, which have become increasingly popular because they are compostable. But the supply of recycled newspaper is in decline, creating a market for substitute materials.
Yanyun Zhao, a professor at Oregon State University who leads a research team focusing on sustainable food packaging and processing, has investigated replacing the recycled newspaper in molded pulp packaging with apple pomace and other by-products from processing fruit and vegetable juice. She has received a patent for this research. One of the key problems to solve for pomace- and paper-based packaging is improving its water resistance so the packaging can deal with high moisture, liquid food or non-food items, and products stored under high humidity conditions. This inspired the team to create eco-friendly, bio-based, compostable and cost-effective solutions that would improve the hydrophobicity, or water resistance, of the apple pomace-based molded pulp products.
The researchers concluded that their study demonstrated the feasibility of using fruit pomace as a new source of fiber in producing molded pulp packaging and identified effective approaches for enhancing water resistance in those packaging materials.
Source: Materials Today