Wax Paper Turns
July 19, 2000
Agricultural Research Service scientists
have developed an inexpensive way to use a corn protein called zein to make a
biodegradable coating as a replacement for wax on paper.
Wax paper and other wax-coated packaging is made with waxes from refined
petroleum-based products. The food industry is a major user of wax packaging
material. Currently, this paper and cardboard isnt recycled, because the
wax coating cannot be cleanly separated from these materials.
While looking for ways to reduce the cost of producing ethanol from corn,
researchers with the Engineering Science
Research Unit at the ARS Eastern Regional
Research (ERRC) Center, Wyndmoor, Pa., isolated a zein-lipid mixture from
ground corn. This mixture can easily be applied to paper, and has good
grease resistance and water barrier properties.
Zein is a protein found in the corn kernel. Unlike other corn proteins that
dissolve in water, zein repels water, making it an ideal coating for packaging
materials. Corn contains about 7-10 percent protein, and about 50 percent of
those proteins are zein. The estimated cost of extracting zein-lipid mixtures
from ground corn by the process developed at ERRC is about $1-2 per pound.
This technology can be used on any packaging material that requires water
proofing, such as boxes for perishable fruits, vegetables and fish.
ARS technology offers an alternative, environmentally friendly coating
for food packaging materials. It also provides an opportunity to strengthen the
agricultural production of corn.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief research agency.
Scientific contact: Nicholas Parris, Engineering Science Research
Unit, ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa., phone (215)
233-6453, fax (215) 233-6795, email@example.com.