Veggie waste offers another green solution to the single-use packaging problem

by Liv Croagh
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Australia has a single-use plastic problem, but with new research done by Victoria University, new waste packaging made from vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, celery and lettuce could be used to create affordable and easily compostable packaging.

Known as ‘biopackaging’, the global environment-friendly food packaging market is expected to grow exponentially, with $184 billion by 2026. The Australian Government has been working on increasing the bans on plastic, with many pubs and restaurants eliminating stores and takeaway places encouraging bringing your own packaging. 

The solution came from Dr Marlene Cran and her team, and uses leaves, stems and rejected produce to create sustainable packaging. The research has found that celery’s high cellulose content makes for ideal food trays, and can be processed into thick films that can be used as tray inserts or a product separator. 

Pea starch has also been seen as effective. The team is using starch waste material left over from the extraction of proteins from yellow peas to create a flexible film that could become the new plastic in a true circular economy.

“In future there could be protein powders or dried peas sold in a bag made from the leftover starch sourced from the vegetables… inside the bag,” says Cran. “That’s the dream.”

Despite the lack of  industry-grade testing facilities and the expense to test alternative packaging – meaning a possible long road ahead – Dr Cran says it just makes sense to replace throw-away packaging with sustainable natural products.

“Designing something that can compete on price and effectiveness with plastic and foam is the work of decades. But the investment needs to start now.

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