A team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) has developed a sustainable antimicrobial wrapping material that can tackle two major problems - prevent packaged food contamination by bacteria as well as reduce the plastic waste generated in the environment when disposing the wrappers. This biodegradable food wrapper has an in-built anti-bacterial compound and is safe for consumption.
The IIT-M team was recently awarded the SITARE- Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Appreciation 2020 for their project. The researchers have also filed for an Indian patent.
The films developed by the team were made with polymeric blends containing starch, polyvinyl alcohol, cyclic beta glycans (CBG). The composition was optimised to achieve the best film with a smooth texture, flexibility, uniform thickness and good clarity. The polymers used are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The antibacterial agent selected is also approved by the food authority for consumption and includes eugenol, chlorogenic acid, betanin, curcumin and gallic acid, among others. These compounds are used regularly in Indian food and are known to possess antibacterial, antioxidant and many other beneficial bioactivities. The compound is either immobilised on the surface or coated or mixed with polymer before preparation.
The researchers also found that the wrapping material degraded at various environmental conditions with rate of degradation varying from 4 to 98 per cent in 21 days. The material degraded rapidly in moist condition when compared to dry ones.
Speaking about the studies conducted by the research team, Puja Kumari, Research scholar, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, said, “Our antibacterial coated polymer wrapper was used for wrapping panner, meat and chicken and its performance was tested. Samples were placed in 4oC and 30oC for 10 days and tested for the effect of the coating on reducing the bacterial growth with respect to the uncoated wrapper.”