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Issue 02/2017

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From Science and

From Science and Research Give waste a chance Shrink film and packaging nets for agricultural products from vegetable waste By: Chelo Escrig Rondán Head of Extrusion Department AIMPLAS (Plastics Technology Centre) Paterna, Spain The autonomous Spanish region of Andalusia currently boasts an annual production of some 7.5 million tonnes of vegetables and 2 million tonnes of fruit, making it Spain’s most important region for the export of tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and, in particular, cucumbers. A recent study from Andalusia’s department of Agriculture, Fishing and Environment conducted by IFAPA (Institute for Research and Training in Agriculture and Fisheries) revealed that overall marketing losses of between 2-10 % occur during handling of the produce, which translates into approximately 500,000 tonnes of horticultural by-products, which often simply end up in landfill. To address this issue, the BIOVEGE project was established. Its aim was to valorize the vegetable waste generated during the handling, transport and delivery of fruit and vegetables, with as goal to develop sub-products suitable for food and packaging applications such as: • Plasticizers for modifying PLA, to enable the development of extruded shrink film and packaging nets; • Natural preservatives suitable for use in a broad range of foodstuffs; • Bioactive, hydrophilic and lipophilic ingredients that can be extracted and emulsions to incorporate these in food matrices of all types, regardless of their nature. The production of biomaterials and food ingredients from these waste products will provide them with real added value. The following diagram shows the two work lines proposed for the BIOVEGE project: vegetable waste extraction of ingredients food preservatives final use food preservatives in food models bioactive ingredients for olive oil of bioactive compounds bioactive ingredients packaging bionet hydrolization from vegetable waste fiber to obtain hydrocarbons alcohol production polymer modification reactive extrusion process Project development shrink film 40 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/17] Vol. 12

From Science and Research This article is focused on the development of new packaging for vegetables based on the following steps: • Extraction of fatty alcohols from fermentable sugars that can be found in vegetable waste (fruits, such as melon and watermelon, and vegetables, such as cucumbers, peppers and courgettes). • Chemical modification of commercial biopolyesters by grafting fatty alcohols onto their polymer chain by means of reactive extrusion in order to improve their elastic properties. • Obtaining new biopolyesters suitable for the extrusion of nets and shrink film. • Currently, the project has exceeded its one third development baseline schedule; during this first period, the researchers have achieved the following: • Formulation of the definition of the material requirements and characteristics to be met by both packaging types. • Chemical modifications have been carried out in PLA at laboratory level using commercial fatty alcohols with different purities. In this step, PLA was modified by using commercial oleic alcohol with two different purities; high purity (80 – 85 %) and low purity (60 %). Both alcohols were grafted onto the PLA polymer using direct grafting radical reactions. A test was performed in which the radical agent was optimized, on the basis of the percentage used in the reaction, the percentage of oleic alcohol employed, as well as the temperature and the reaction time. Once the reaction conditions had been optimized with the commercial alcohol, the same reaction was performed using oleic alcohol obtained through the fermentation of sugars from vegetable waste. A summary of the results is shown in the following table: c) Chemical modifications at laboratory level Purity of the oleic alcohol Commercial 60 % Commercial 80 – 85 % Oleic alcohol percentage employed in the reaction (%) Grafting reaction efficiency (%) 1 82,5 2 99 3 95 1 71 2 91 3 70 a) Shrink Film Requirements b) Packaging Nets Requirements Shrink film for cucumber Processable material produced through Blown Film Extrusion Film with good transparency. Packaging nets for green beans and garlics Processable material produced using Extrusion Melt Spinning technology • Garlic: Oriented nets • Green Beans: not oriented nets In this step, the researchers developed a route to graft oleic alcohol onto the PLA polymer. Using this methodology, the efficiency of the grafting reaction using 2 % of fatty alcohol was higher than 90 % in both cases. Additional trials using the oleic alcohol derived from fermented vegetable waste, are under development. Future steps: In the second part of the project, this chemical modification process will be scaled up from laboratory to pilot plant level. Both products (shrink film and packaging nets) will be manufactured. The packaging characterization will continue and the validation of both types will start, bearing in mind their functionality. At the end of the project, the scaling up of new bio-compounds and the production of final products will be also carried out. Partners This Spanish project, coordinated by La Union, is being carried out by a consortiumof six companies: La Unión, Neol, DOMCA, Torres Morente, Ecoplas and Morera y Vallejo. These companies have subcontracted four research and development centers to perform a number of tasks: CIDAF, Las Palmerillas, Tecnalia and AIMPLAS, who is also in charge of the technical coordination of the project. Acknowledgement This project has received funding from INNTERCONECA (ITC-20151281) a programme funded by CDTI (Spanish Government). bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/17] Vol. 12 41

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