Fast food waste solution in sustainable seaweed packaging

Newswise — Materials researchers at Flinders University and pioneering German biomaterials developer one•fıve are using algae extracts to develop next-generation biopolymer coating materials that could solve packaging waste dilemmas for the fast food industry.

The new non-polluting biomaterials are designed to replace conventional fossil-based plastic coatings used in grease-resistant fast food packaging.

Grease-resistant paper is typically coated with plastic and other environmentally harmful chemicals, such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), but the new prototype coating meets the functional requirements of conventional grease-resistant packaging materials while presenting an ecologically circular solution.

The result represents a landmark achievement in creating a next-generation sustainable and environmentally responsible biopolymer.

“We are able to reduce harmful plastic pollution through this product, and we also use raw materials that are regenerative for the environment,” says Claire Gusko, co-founder of one fıve.

“Growing seaweed helps to naturally rehabilitate marine environments, reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate coastal erosion. It’s important to us to use sustainable upstream inputs to ensure our products are safe for the environment, from cradle to grave.

This development – which took extracts from certain seaweeds, added modifications and formed degradable bioplastic films – was led by Dr Zhongfan Jia, a principal investigator from the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and fellow researcher Mr. Peng Su in association with the Flinders Center for Marine Bioproducts Development.

“Seaweed extracts are similar in structure to the natural fibers from which paper is made,” says Dr. Jia. “Our new specialty treatments enhance the grease-resistant characteristic of algae through simple modifications without affecting the biodegradability or recyclability of the coated paper.”

The biomass for the new coating formulation is made from natural polymers extracted from seaweed native to Australia’s southern coast – which provided a key reason why Flinders University researchers studied it for wider scientific application. These extracts are processed through a proprietary processing methodology to produce sheets of functional biopolymers that can be cut or coated onto various surfaces, depending on the application.

Flinders University and One Five are currently working to transfer the processing to the laboratory scale to produce relevant volumes for the natural polymer coating industry.

This initiative aims to have a transformative impact on the global packaging and plastics industry by dramatically reducing reliance on highly polluting conventional plastic.

About one five (pronounced: one comma five): This biomaterials discovery, development and scale-up company was founded in Hamburg in late 2020 by former infarm executives Martin Weber and Claire Gusko. They provide personalized, cleaner and circular packaging solutions in record time; designed to integrate into existing consumer packaging value chains to create a measurable and positive impact on the environment. With a mission to accelerate the transformation of the global packaging supply chain, the one • fıve team of 30 interdisciplinary members has raised over €10 million in funding to date. Their initial focus is fiber-based packaging solutions for major FMCG brand owners and packaging converters. one•fıve is a member of industry leading packaging alliances 4evergreen and Verpackung mit Zukunft.

About Flinders Center for the Development of Marine Bioproducts: Launched in 2007, the center conducts cutting-edge research and applies the latest bioprocessing technologies to Australia’s marine bioresources – up to 95% of which are found nowhere else in the world – to drive marine bioproducts innovations in the food production, health and nutrition, and alternative fuels and energy.

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