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New Seaweed-based Biopolymer Coating for Food Packaging

Flinders University researchers Peng Su, left, Chanaka Mudugamuwa and Dr Zhongfan Jia.

Materials researchers from Flinders University are partnering with German biomaterials developer One-Five to develop non-pollutive biopolymer coating materials for food packaging.

The new seaweed extract-based degradable bioplastic film is designed to replace plastic coatings used in grease-resistant fast-food packaging, which often contains problematic chemicals such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The new prototype is said to meet the functional requirements of conventional grease-resistant packaging material while also presenting an environmentally circular solution.

One-Five Co-Founder Claire Gusko said the product will help reduce harmful plastic pollution, while using environmentally regenerative feedstock.

“Seaweed cultivation helps to naturally rehabilitate marine environments, reduce greenhouse gases, and mitigate coastal erosion,” she said.

“It’s important for us to use sustainable inputs upstream to ensure our products are environmentally safe, from cradle to grave.”

Extracts from the seaweed – which is native to the South Australian coastline – are transformed through a proprietary process to produce functional biopolymer sheets that can be applied to various surfaces.

“The seaweed extracts have a similar structure to the natural fibres from which paper is made,” said Dr Zhongfan Jia, a lead researcher from the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

“Our novel specialist treatments boost the grease-resistance feature of the seaweed via simple modifications, while not affecting biodegradability or recyclability of the coated paper.”

Flinders University and One-Five are now working towards transferring laboratory-scale processing to produce the coating in industrial volumes.