Biodegradable Films & Nets for Vegetables Sourced from Horticultural Wastes

Spain-based plastics and agricultural R&D collaboration leads to biodegradable packaging from fruit & vegetable by-products. 

A broad collaboration originating in Spain is making different types of biodegradable films with a thickness of 0.91 in. to be used as shrink film for the packaging of cucumbers and in the manufacture of bags, nets and more. 

Known as Biovege, this is an ongoing project from Spain’s AIMPLAS Plastics Technology Center in collaboration with Alhondiga La Union, a major vegetable and fruit producer; research and innovation firm Tecnalia; multidisciplinary R&D center Cidaf; and Las Palmerillas Fundacion Cajamar. The latter is a reference technological center in Mediterranean intensive agriculture, from where technology and knowledge has been transferred since 1975. The project is further funded by Spain’s Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI).

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The now commercially available packaging products mentioned above have resulted from extracting sugars obtained from watermelon and melon by-products produced in abundance in the country’s Andalusia region. This region annually produces about 1-billion lb of fruit and vegetable by-products that typically have not been recovered and end up in landfills. In step with the philosophy of the circular economy, the Biovege project has made possible the extraction of substances of high value from these by-products for the packaging and food industries.

In addition, the collaborators have derived active substances like vitamins, antioxidants and food colorants from other waste horticultural products that have enabled the creation of the following products:

● Single-serve sachets of vinaigrette dressing supplemented with 5% of lyophilized tomato and olive oil supplemented with 1% of green pepper phenolic extract, obtained by pressurized fluids.

● Ready-to-blend gazpacho made of lyophilized tomato, pepper and cucumber by-products. It is a powdered preparation to cook gazpacho in situ, ready to mix with water and drink. It reportedly maintains all the properties of fresh gazpacho, but with a higher shelf life and vitamin C.

● Meat preparation enriched with antioxidant capacity of more than 20% with respect to controls due to incorporation of pepper by-products.

● Tomato and pepper flavored flour enriched with an antioxidant capacity that incorporates lyophilized tomato and pepper by-products in its formulation.

● Natural food colorants from lyophilized red pepper by-products as a replacement of artificial food colorants (cochineal, E-120 and carotenes, E160a) without differences regarding color and giving aroma and taste to meat and vegan products.