Going full circle: from fruit waste to food packaging
The European ECOFUNCO project’s goal is to use waste from the agricultural and food industry, in this case seeds and skins from tomatoes, watermelons and apples, to extract high-value compounds that are subsequently used in packaging for food and personal hygiene use.
Obtaining new, more sustainable and recyclable materials and contributing to the circular economy are two of the main aims of the project, explained by M Carmen Garrigós, principal researcher of the University of Alicante (UA) involved the project.
UA's NANOBIOPOL group has carried out the extraction of the active compounds present in the agri-food waste. By using sustainable extraction techniques based on microwaves and ultrasound, it has managed to obtain new extracts with high added value (proteins, cutin, polysaccharides, polyphenols, fatty acids). These compounds have enabled the development of antimicrobial and antioxidant coatings for personal hygiene products such as tissues, as well as plastics for active packaging of fresh products, and single-use cartons (trays, plates, cups) with improved water-barrier properties.
In addition to obtaining products with new advantages and taking advantage of the biomass generated in the agri-food sector, all the products developed with the compounds extracted by the UA researchers are recyclable and biodegradable.