By Olamide Tejuoso
A biodegradable spray-on food wrapper has been developed by a team of scientists from Rutgers University, a top public university and Harvard University, a private Ivy League research university, both in the United States of America. According to the researchers, the wrapper is believed to preserve the shelf-life of food, reduce food and plastic waste, and increase food safety. The wrapper, after being sprayed on the food, could be easily rinsed off the food to be eaten.
Due to the large data on global plastic waste generation, concerns have continued to arise as regards food waste and safety. Pollution generated from plastics is getting more worrisome as scientists have posited that it takes plastic at times, up to 500 years to decompose, depending on their composition and disposal. The world, according to Earth.org, generates 300 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. A research associate in bioengineering at Harvard University, Huibin Chang, who was involved in the development of the wrapper, explained that most food wrappers today are non-biodegradable, leading to environmental pollution.
He emphasised that the goal of the spray-on wrapper project is to improve the shelf-life of foods with less amount of antimicrobial coatings using green processes. According to the researchers, the spray on wrapper’s main ingredient is “pullulan”, an edible fibre that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally recognises as safe. The mixture of the biodegradable polymer and non-toxic solvents can be rinsed off with water. According to reports, the spray-on wrapper is still in its early stage of technological development, but the Rutgers research team intends to scale up the process, to make the wrapper cost-efficient and suitable to current industry equipment standards. The researchers would then begin marketing the wrapper to companies and customers, who are ready to absorb the relatively higher costs of the innovation.