The Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) and the discount supermarket chain Lidl have jointly developed a new protective cellulose coating for fruits and vegetables, which aims to replace in the medium term the plastic containers used to preserve and present food.
The cellulose for the coating is obtained from the solids from fruit and vegetable peels after being subjected to processes by which all liquids are extracted. To date, this waste was used in biogas plants or as fertilizer for crops, but now it can be given a new use by being transformed into fibrillated cellulose.
The experts of the Cellulose and Wood Materials Laboratory of the EMPA have been working for more than a year to develop the new protective coating, in tests carried out the shelf life of bananas has been extended by more than a week, in the case of cucumbers the shelf life is extended up to 6 days. It seems that depending on the type of food, the duration varies, but in all cases it is possible to extend it for at least 6 days, so it can be said that it is a product that contributes to significantly reduce waste of fruits and vegetables.
Experts explain that coating can be sprinkled on food or these can be immersed in a solution of fibrillated cellulose, highlighting that once fruits and vegetables reach the consumer’s hands, they simply have to be washed under tap water, and if there are remains, it is not a problem, since it is a material suitable for consumption. But there is more, the researchers comment that the coating has great untapped potential, for example, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can be added that will enrich food nutritionally.
The truth is that in recent years different coatings and films have been presented that extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, such as Edipeel, an edible and invisible coating developed by the company Apeel Sciences and presented in 2016, which began to be used to protect avocados two years later. Another more recent example is the coating with egg proteins developed by researchers at Rice University (United States), with which conservation can be extended between 8 and 11 days.
With these types of solutions fight against the use and abuse of plastic, a material that poses a great problem for the environment, is fight against food loss and wasteIn addition, a by-product is used that again becomes part of the food chain. For now, we will have to wait until the new coating can be produced and applied on a large scale, assuming that it is economically viable and the companies are interested, since, as we have mentioned, there are other similar coatings that are already on the market.
You can learn more about this research work through the official website of the EMPA.