SINGAPORE: Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have created a biodegradable packaging material that can double the shelf life of perishable food, like bread.
While the eco-friendly composite film is similar to the plastic used in cling wrap or ziplock bags, it is actually made from natural ingredients like grapefruit seed extract and chitosan, a biomaterial derived from the shells of crustaceans.
The inherent properties of these materials slow fungal and bacterial growth.
The condition of two bread samples after being kept in polyethylene film and NUS' chitosan-GFSE film for 20 days. (Photo: NUS)
The researchers plan to conduct further studies to improve the technology.
"Next, we will test on the anti-microbial properties of the film, anti-bacterial properties, and also a degradation study,” said Ms Tan Yi Min, a PhD candidate in the National University of Singapore’s Mechanical Engineering Department. “Then we will carry out an extended accelerated shelf-life study on various food products such as red meat, dairy products, as well as seafood."
The group hopes to commercialise the film, with the support of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology.
However cost is a hurdle, as the researchers said the film is about 30 per cent more expensive than plastic films that are currently used.
Ms Tan explained: "The chitosan material is not commonly used for manufacturing in the industry, so the cost is slightly higher than synthetic polymer films. However, with its anti-microbial properties being able to extend the shelf life of food products, we can minimise food wastage, thus extending to an increase in cost-savings and protection for our environment."