Discover an Edible Food Packaging Breakthrough!

Scientists have created an innovative wrapping material derived from bacteria.

Plastic bags pollute the ocean and contaminate fish.

(monticello /

This might just be the sustainable packaging breakthrough that green-conscious consumers have been waiting for. Food Matters Live reports that scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have created a new edible, biodegradable, and transparent material using soy protein isolate. This wrapping, if produced at scale, may be a viable alternative to conventional, single-use traditional plastics made from petrochemicals that don’t biodegrade, and end up polluting our environment as plastic waste for years. 

The researchers of the study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture,  optimistically concluded that; “This bio-based composite material demonstrated considerable potential for application in food packaging and other value-added sectors as a substitute for non-degradable plastics.”

As Food Bev Media emphasizes, the research aims to serve as a reminder that natural raw materials may already possess the necessary characteristics to outperform plastic packaging.

Tweaked bacterial cellulose as a viable alt to traditional plastic packaging
The researchers, explains Food Matters Live, developed the new material by working with bacterial cellulose. This is an organic compound produced by particular types of bacteria. The team is quick to point out its promising features which take in high versatility,  and tensile strength. This quality means that the material can ensure significant levels of pulling force without being stretched. ZME Science adds that it also has a distinctly soft texture, and a high fiber content.

Significantly, previous attempts at using bacterial cellulose in packaging materials have been challenging because it absorbs moisture in the air which compromises its tensile strength. The innovation in this new research was to introduce soy proteins into the material structure of the bacterial cellulose, and to then coat it with an oil-resistant composite to create an edible film. What’s more, as ZME Science observes,  this  makes it safer for all sea animals such as turtles that can eat the new packaging without toxicity risks or harm.

The scientists found that this new material showed impressive overall qualities, as documented in the study’s results: “The finding demonstrated that the synthesized bio-based composite material exhibits stability in water, high optical transparency, complete oil resistance, and full degradability within 1 to 2 months. Furthermore, the composite material displayed enhanced mechanical properties in both dry and wet conditions, with a tensile strength of approximately 84 MPa.” This is a unit indicating how much force per unit area is required to stretch or tear a material.

No crop harvesting required!
As well as not needing any chemical intervention in the recycling process, as do other bioplastics, bacterial cellulose offers another impressive advantage over plant-derived cellulose used in other bioplastics. In contrast to plant-derived cellulose, bacterial cellulose can be synthesized using a microbial fermentation process, which doesn’t require the harvesting of crops, making it more sustainable. 

As the study’s author,Professor To Ngai, tells the Society of Chemical Industry as quoted in Food Matters Live: “This production method does not contribute to deforestation or habitat loss, making [bacterial cellulose] a more sustainable and environmentally friendly material alternative to plant cellulose.”

What’s next for this promising packaging material?
ZME Science details that the researchers are now looking at broadening the potential applications of modified bacterial cellulose films to make them more versatile. In particular, they are exploring the possibility of enabling the moulding of the material into diverse shapes by using heat.

As Ngai explains to vegan business magazine, Vegconomist, this will make bacterial cellulose films more competitive with conventional plastics while maintaining their environmental friendliness.

How to Become a Conscious Tourist
This Unique Vending Machine Actually Washes Bottles!
Coral Reef Champion Emerges From Obscurity