Tan Yi Min from the National University of Singapore has been experimenting with crabs and grapefruits. Her goal is to develop an alternative to conventional plastic food packaging.
Three years of research has led to a new biodegradable composite film that keeps food fresh twice as long as synthetic plastic packaging.
The film combines grapefruit seed extract and Chitosan film, a biodegradable polymer made from the shells of crustaceans like shrimp.
Apart from a longer shelf life for food, Tan Yi Min says the new material doesn’t contain chemical additives that could prove harmful if dissolved into food.
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT, STUDENT, TAN YI MIN:
“When the chemical additives in these (normal plastic) sachets, if they dissolve into the food products and they are being consumed in large amounts into our body system, it can cause human health issues such as neurological disorders, so that’s one of the possible impacts.”
Another impact is potentially reducing plastic waste pollution. Each year, enough plastic to circle the earth four times is thrown away and it can takes up to 1000 years to degrade, according the United Nations.
The team says further study is needed to perfect the composition of the film and to commercialize it in a way that keeps its production cost competitive with conventional plastics.
While it may take time, materials like these offer a path for humans to stop polluting the environment and nurture it instead.