Researchers work to upcycle avocado waste into biodegradable packaging system

SPAIN – Researchers under the Guacapack Project are developing a biodegradable packaging system from avocado waste capable of extending food shelf life by 15 percent.

The Guacapack Project is funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency and led by ITC Packaging with additional support from the Universidad de Alicante’s research group on Polymer and Nanomaterial Analysis.

Aimplas’ Plastics Technology Centre has also joined the project whose packaging system will include barrier labels and antioxidant additives, protecting guacamole and similar foodstuffs from oxidation.

The process extracts and purifies starch from the avocado seed to produce a film for multilayer IML labels with oxygen barrier properties.

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Additionally, the high antioxidant active components of waste avocado skin and flesh can also used as a component of PLA bioplastic and injection-molded to manufacture the packaging system.

In developing the packaging material, the researchers will be developing an alternative route for the waste from avocados which is estimated to be roughly 45% of of the total weight of avocadoes, , fully aligning with circular economy criteria.

The Guacapack Project’s solution also has the potential to provides an alternative to synthetic additives. Simultaneously, the solution will also help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-Being, SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production.

“The main challenge is to achieve the required barrier properties to protect the food product, as biodegradable materials do not show the same barrier performance as conventional plastic packaging structures,” explains Rosa González, the project’s lead researcher at Aimplas.

She however notes that in theory, both the incorporation of natural antioxidants from avocado in the packaging material and development of barrier labels based on starch should provide the necessary barrier performance.

If successful, prototypes of the packaging will be produced for the validation of the new packaging performance and compliance with European legislation regarding food contact plastics materials.

Rosa González said, “The project is expected to finish at the end of this year, with the production of functional packaging prototypes, prior to the commercialization steps”.

Aimplas participation in the project brings on board extensive experience in research around recycling, biodegradable materials and products, and the use of biomass and CO2 to help solve environmental challenges.

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Earlier this month, the Aimplas-led EU-funded Dafia project released the results of an investigation into turning fish and municipal waste into biopolymers and other barrier packaging materials.

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