An EU project is aiming to produce functional bacteriostatic packaging which is 100% biodegradable and demonstrates higher mechanical strength and increased ultra-violet and heat resistance than conventional methods.
The consortium will focus on the industrial use of waste derived natural chitin nanocrystals (chitin-nanofibrils-CN) and one of the partners is Norwegian Food Institute, Nofima.
One area of interest is the production of biodegradable materials based on natural chitin-nanofibrils derived by waste from the fish industry.
Researchers are looking at biodegradable packaging made of chitin and chitosan from shrimp shells that will improve and conserve food products.
Products range from hard bioplastic, which is just as robust as other plastics, to thin film that can come in direct contact with food products.
Active packaging from raw materials
The n-CHITOPACK project will create active packaging based on raw materials from shrimp shell which aims to improve and conserves food products.
Nofima’s part of the project equates to around NOK 1m over a two-year period and with the coordinator, Italian company Mavi, the project involves four medium-sized companies in EU and three research centres.
Chitin and chitosan are biocompatible, naturally biodegradable polymers, non-toxic and show antimicrobial and UV adsorption characteristics, according to the project brief.
“Chitosan waste exceeds 25 billion tonnes per year and is hazardous due to its high perishability and polluting effect, both on land and at sea. So re-use and up cycling to higher value applications would establish an important step forwards towards resource efficiency,” it added.
New research from a research institute in Prague led to a global patent (MAVI) on nanofibre based on chitin, which opens new possibilities for chitin as an ingredient in biopolymers to replace plastic.
“Our job is to ensure food contact safety in the project and quantify the effect on bacteria. Chitosan used as an integrated part of the packaging can have an antibacterial effect on the food products,” said Morten Sivertsvik, Director of Research at Nofima’s department for Processing Technology in Stavanger.
“The EU has strict regulations in this area, and our role is to see that the active packaging have a positive and not negative impact on the food products.
“The chitosan-based fibres that are used in the packaging are based on nanotechnology, so we are talking about minute particles that by no means have to break down so they come in the food products.”