New doctoral study develops renewable food packaging from wheat straw and mango peels

Wheat straw and mango peels, normally disposed of in landfills or used as manure and animal feed ,could potentially be used in the development of renewable, biodegradable and non-toxic active (the ability to respond to temperature and time changes in food storage) food packaging that could help keep products fresher for longer.

This is one of the main findings of a recent doctoral study at Stellenbosch University (SU).

“There’s a move towards renewable and biodegradable food packaging in a bid to replace non-renewable and non-biodegradable petroleum-based packaging materials. We should consider using agricultural-residues like wheat straw and mango peels, which are rich in bio or natural polymers and antioxidants, as alternative raw materials to petroleum-based packaging materials,” says Dr Lindleen Mugwagwa, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Process Engineering at SU. She recently obtained her doctorate in Chemical Engineering at SU.

Dr Lindleen Mugwagwa Stellenbosch University
Dr Lindleen Mugwagwa, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Process Engineering at Stellenbosch University

Biocomposite film

Mugwagwa’s study* was the first to develop methods for extracting the necessary bio or natural polymers and antioxidants from both wheat straw and mango peels that contain properties which are suitable for developing an active food packaging material. It was also the first time that these products were integrated to form a biocomposite film (a material composite consisting of biodegradable polymers and bio-based reinforcing agents) that was tested in a food environment.

As part of her study, Mugwagwa developed and optimised processes for extracting these polymers and antioxidants. She then combined the polymers and antioxidants to make a food packaging material and tested the stability of the biocomposite films when in contact with food as well as their potential to release antioxidants into packaged food over time. Low density polyethylene film, a commonly used plastic, was used as a benchmark.

Properties can be tailor-made

Mugwagwa says her study showed that the properties of polymers and antioxidants in wheat straw and mango peels can be tailor-made during extraction to suit their application in food packaging. The polymers and antioxidants can be extracted simultaneously from the same feedstock without affecting their use in food packaging.

“The bio-based films that I developed were capable of releasing more antioxidants into food over a short period of time when compared to low density polyethylene plastic. This suggests that they can be a replacement for packaging perishables.

“The release of antioxidants into food by packaging material is becoming an important aspect to consider when choosing packaging material. Packaging material capable of releasing antioxidants into food in response to storage conditions have the potential to increase the shelf life of products because the released antioxidants act upon free radicals and microorganisms which may develop when food is improperly stored or when food is stored for longer periods.

“My research provides cheap, sustainable and biodegradable polymers that can be used in the development of food packaging and also presents methods for recovering natural antioxidants and their application as additives to food packaging material. These natural antioxidants have the potential to replace artificial antioxidants in packaging material that could cause cancer.”

Mugwagwa says the type of food packaging material proposed in her study could be ideal to replace environmentally hazardous petroleum-based packaging materials.

She adds that biorefineries, the food packaging industry as well as farmers and consumers will benefit from her research.

*Mugwagwa’s study was conducted under the supervision of Prof A.F.A Chimphango with the financial support from the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the National research Foundation of South Africa, the Department of Science and Technology/Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Waste Road Map and SU’s Department of Process Engineering.



Latest


15 Apr 2021
Remembering Gary Willis of First Cut

The management and staff of First Cut, together with local and international colleagues mourn the loss of First Cut’s sales…

Remembering Gary Willis of First Cut

The management and staff of First Cut, together with local and international colleagues mourn the loss of First Cut’s sales director Gary Willis, who passed away on Thursday evening 1 April, at the age of 51. Willis fought an 18-month battle with cancer very bravely, remaining resolutely positive until the…

14 Apr 2021
LANCEWOOD’S new cheesecake mix makes baking a Piece o’ Cake

LANCEWOOD, South Africa’s award-winning producer of cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy products, has launched the delectable new ‘Piece o’ Cake’…

LANCEWOOD’S new cheesecake mix makes baking a Piece o’ Cake

LANCEWOOD, South Africa’s award-winning producer of cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy products, has launched the delectable new ‘Piece o’ Cake’ cheesecake mix for those looking for an effortless, yet equally mouth-watering alternative to baking a traditional cheesecake. “Considering LANCEWOOD’s strong association with baking cheesecakes and being the No. 1 cream…

13 Apr 2021
SAAFoST biennial congress goes virtual

BY: Madelein Jansen SAAFoST KZN & Local Organising committee chair SAAFoST (South African Association for Food Science and Technology) presents…

SAAFoST biennial congress goes virtual

BY: Madelein Jansen SAAFoST KZN & Local Organising committee chair SAAFoST (South African Association for Food Science and Technology) presents its Biennial Congress, and it is the KZN Branch’s turn to host this prestigious event. Not knowing what the future will hold, in September of 2020 a decision was made…

12 Apr 2021
Tate & Lyle launches online university to share stabiliser science with food formulators

Tate & Lyle, a leading global provider of food and beverage solutions and ingredients, has launched a Stabiliser University, a…

Tate & Lyle launches online university to share stabiliser science with food formulators

Tate & Lyle, a leading global provider of food and beverage solutions and ingredients, has launched a Stabiliser University, a new online modular course designed to help formulators and food scientists solve even the toughest stabiliser formulation challenges. The first module – entitled “Stabiliser Fundamentals” – will take place at…


Top stories


07 Feb 2020
Deli meat producer creates SA’s first plant-based sandwich slices

Feinschmecker Deli Meats, who have built up a formidable reputation as the market leader in speciality deli meats in South…

Deli meat producer creates SA’s first plant-based sandwich slices

Feinschmecker Deli Meats, who have built up a formidable reputation as the market leader in speciality deli meats in South Africa, has launched a range of plant-based sandwich slices under the brand name Gudness. It is the first range of its kind produced in SA.

18 Mar 2020
Avocado growers celebrate the ancient history of avos this season

According to the THP 2020 Flavour & Trend Forecast*, Michelin star restaurants around the world will be increasingly seeking out…

Avocado growers celebrate the ancient history of avos this season

According to the THP 2020 Flavour & Trend Forecast*, Michelin star restaurants around the world will be increasingly seeking out traditional ingredients from some of the oldest civilizations this year, particularly Central and South America.

18 Mar 2020
Limpopo residents become eco-warriors

Residents in northern Limpopo are becoming eco-warriors thanks to a new campaign which aims to see environmental waste reduced and…

Limpopo residents become eco-warriors

Residents in northern Limpopo are becoming eco-warriors thanks to a new campaign which aims to see environmental waste reduced and much-needed jobs created.

31 Mar 2020
Sleep friendly food and beverages are the next big trend with millennials

GlobalData predicts that sleep-friendly ingredients in food and drinks are the next big trend as it aligns with consumers’ desire…

Sleep friendly food and beverages are the next big trend with millennials

GlobalData predicts that sleep-friendly ingredients in food and drinks are the next big trend as it aligns with consumers’ desire for a good night’s rest through natural methods.


Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za