Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: September 27, 2006
Publication Date: October 4, 2006
Citation: Dangaran, K.L., Onwulata, C.I., Tomasula, P.M., Cherry, J.P. 2006. Packaging, films and coatings: technologies and applications. (Baltimore,MD) Meeting Abstract. http://www.sustainablebizness.com/zerowasteinitiative.htm Technical Abstract: There is an increasing demand for biodegradable and compostable packaging by both industry and consumers. With the growing concern over the state of the environment and a desire to decrease the use of petroleum-based packaging, packaging from renewable resources that is produced using environmentally-benign technologies is needed. These topics were the subject of an “Industry Forum on Responsible Packaging” co-sponsored by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, Seventh Generation, Neumann’s Own, Avalon Natural Products and Earthbound Farm, October 4, 2006, at the Baltimore Convention Center. As invited researchers, Drs. Dangaran, Onwulata and Cherry were asked to discuss ongoing agricultural research using agricultural feedstocks and waste streams to make value-added products like bio-based packaging. Within the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA, researchers at the Eastern Regional Research Center, the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, the Western Regional Research Center and the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center are using many agricultural commodities as feedstocks for biodegradable and/or compostable packaging. Milk proteins (casein, whey), and some other proteins, cornstarch, wheat starch, fruit pectin, feather keratin, and soy oils are all being converted to molded containers, flexible films and protective coatings for packaging systems. The variety of starting materials creates a wide array of biodegradable packaging with various properties. The broad selection of agricultural starting material maintains biodiversity in “green” feed stocks. Discussed were the four main roles of packaging including containment, protection, communication and convenience. Biodegradable packaging from agricultural materials must be successful on all counts to replace synthetic packaging materials, and they have proven their potential to do so. As examples, research studies were presented on dairy protein-based films having barrier properties that challenge high performance resins like ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) and offer a layer of protection to food or non-food products; straw-based molded containers having the durability and strength to contain a product for shipment; and, wheat-starch packaging biodegrading within 90 days. There are packaging systems that make it convenient for consumers to complete the cycle through composting. Ag-based packaging not only can physically communicate through appearance properties, but can connect psychologically with a consumer by offering an environmentally-responsible option. With a predicted growth rate of at least 20% during the next few years, biodegradable packaging from agricultural feedstocks requires more research and development to meet the needs of industry and the consumer. Through chemistry and processing, the properties and applications of “green” packaging, films and coatings will be improved. Compostability, not just biodegradability, will be included. Bio-based packaging will fit the definition of sustainability because feedstocks can be renewed annually by just growing a new crop. Answers will come through successful research developments, transfer of technologies and knowledge between scientists and industry.