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Recent Developments in Food-Based Bioplastics Production

  • Babuskin SrinivasanEmail author
  • Garima Kulshreshtha
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series


The problem of pollution has been rising all over the world right now, and plastics are the one that plays major role in it, which has been in daily use like packaging materials, carry bags, manufacturing of different types of materials, etc. Among them around, 40% are particularly used for the production of food packaging materials. A feasible way to solve this issue is to gradually decrease the consumption of plastics prepared of petrochemical origin and subsequently substitute it with plastics made up of biodegradable materials. The transformation process of bioplastics materials (starch, polyhydroxyalkanoates, cellulose, and polylactide) for food packaging applications by employing traditional plastic manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, extrusion, and compression molding has been discussed in this chapter. Active packaging is one of the latest packaging techniques which contain active ingredients in them utilized to scavenge free radicals or eradicate undesirable organisms, thereby extending the shelf life of the product. The application of bioplastics materials in the production of active packaging has also been reviewed and discussed in this chapter.


Active packaging Barrier Bioplastics Food packaging Polyhydroxyalkanoates 



High-density polyethylene


Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose


α-Hydroxysulfonic acid cellulose


Low-density polyethylene


2-Methacryloyloxyethyl isocyanate


Poly(butylene adipate-co-terphthalate)


Poly(butylene succinate)






Polyethylene glycol


Poly(ethylene terephthalate)


Polyhydroxy alkanoate


Polyhydroxy butyrate




Polylactic acid






Poly(trimethylene terephthalate)




Polyvinyl chloride


Trifluoroacetic acid


Thermoplastic starch

1 Introduction

Plastics produced from petrochemical sources are in use for a long time in different kinds of applications like packaging, automotive, healthcare, and electronic devices. They are non-avoidable owing to the economic advantage it offers and its versatility, robustness, and aesthetic qualities. In the current scenario, some of the frequently utilized polymers in packaging applications are polyethylene (PE, 29%), polypropylene (PP, 19%), polyvinyl chloride (PVC, 13%), polystyrene (PS, 7%), poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET, 7%), polyurethane (PUR, 6%), and others. However usages of such polymers have created immense negative impact in the atmosphere, because of their toxic nature after incineration, non-biodegradability and pollution of water bodies [1].

1.1 Global Production and Impact

The demand for polymers in food packaging applications has been constantly on the rise owing to the increase in consumption of convenience foods. Global trades in processed foods have reached more than two trillion US dollars, and packaged foods contribute for half the quantity of that. When compared with other packaging materials like metal, paper, and board, plastic packaging occupies a major share of it (40%) [2]. The packaging materials employed in food industries have very short lifetime, cannot always be recycled, and after their utilization, majority of them accumulate in the landfills and water bodies, causing serious ecological concerns. It has been identified that only less than 3% of the plastic bags (500 billion) that are distributed in the market every year are recycled [3]. The plastic packaging materials used are frequently contaminated by biological substances and by foodstuff, thereby making it complicated for recycling process.

A feasible way to solve this issue is to replace non-natural polymers with eco-friendly materials particularly for packaging applications. However there are stiff challenges faced in using biodegradable polymers owing to their processability, cost, and functional properties when compared with synthetic polymers. The biodegradable polymers can be produced by utilizing natural resources like plants, animals, and microorganisms or from other renewable resources and are degraded by the enzymatic action of fungi, yeast, and bacteria; and they are compostable by acting as fertilizers and soil conditioner. Some of the important examples are polylactic acid, cellulose, starch, chitosan, lignin, and proteins [4].

2 Classification of Bioplastics

The bioplastics are categorized into four sections depending on their method of synthesis, source, and chemical composition.

Based on their chemical composition, source, and synthesis method, bioplastics can be classified into four categories (shown in Fig. 1): (1) polymers derived straightly from biomass (e.g., protein, starch, cellulose); (2) polymers produced through chemical synthesis by utilizing bioderived monomers (e.g., bio PE, PHB, PLA); (3) polymers produced from microbial fermentation (e.g., polyhydroxyalkanoates); and (4) polymers produced through chemical synthesis by utilization of both petroleum-based and bio-derived monomers (e.g., PTT, PBS) [6].
Fig. 1

Resources of biodegradable polymers (with permission from [5])

Bioplastics made out of starch, cellulose, PLA, and PHAs have gained commercial importance in recent times, due to their ease in processing using existing processing equipment, good functional properties, and they can be manufactured in bulk at competitive costs [6].

2.1 Starch

Starch is a polysaccharide containing vast numbers of glucose units linked together by glycosidic bonds which are made up usually of amylopectin (75–80%) and amylose (20–25%). Starch is produced as reserve material in plants such as corn, rice, cassava, oat, wheat, barley, soybean, and potatoes in granule form, varying in size (0.5–175 μm) and in composition. They are hydrophilic, and the water content of starch varies with relative humidity. In starch, the amylopectin contributes for crystalline areas and the amylose for amorphous areas. Due to the hydrophilic nature and processability, there are limitations regarding application of starch as a packaging material. This problem can be solved by adding plasticizers like carboxylic acid, sorbitol, or glycerol or by blending with polymers like polyols, epoxides, or poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL).

The polymers have distinct chemical structures and it causes immiscibility issues when blended with starch; this can be solved by an alternative approach of grafting vinyl and acrylic monomers on the starch polymer chain, thereby enhancing its hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity; this may depend on the processing condition. A number of essential characteristics such as flexibility or elongation and hardness can be adjusted by modifying the concentrations of plasticizers added.

Flexibility of a blended polymer can be easily enhanced by increasing the plasticizer content. When compared to pure starch or chemically modified starch, thermoplastic starch provides finer phase dispersion in the blend system [7, 8]. Thermoplastic starch can be produced by blending glycerol with starch subsequent to the gelatinization process. Though TPS has excellent oxygen barrier properties, due to their hydroscopic nature, they can’t be used for packaging liquid food and high moisture-containing products. Thermal and mechanical properties of thermoplastic starch can be increased by adding aliphatic polyesters like PHBV, PLA, PCL, etc., and the strength of the plastics may vary depending on the polymer blend [9]. Thermoplastic materials from starch can be utilized for manufacturing plates, food wrappings, and food containers and cups [10].

Thermoplastic starch was blended with talc nanoparticles, and by thermo-compressing, the films’ packaging bags were made. The maximum strength was obtained for films added with 3 wt% of talc; however, the films displayed poor water vapor barrier and mechanical properties when compared to plain starch films. Corn starch can be used to produce 100% biodegradable polymers when blended with plasticizers, and the resin manufactured can be transformed into injection-molded pieces, loose-fill packaging material, and films [11].

The films made up of starch are odorless, colorless, and tasteless, and they have showed low humidity and less permeability to oxygen [12]. When compared with plain starch film, films made by blending PCL (up to 10% wt) with citric acid and glycerol being added as compatibilizers displayed good water vapor barrier property and also lowered the glass transition temperature [13].

Biodegradable films can be also manufactured by utilizing oxidized or acetylated arracacha starch. Due to the high transparency displayed by films produced from acetylated starch, also because of their good physicochemical properties, these can be used for food packaging applications [14].

The biodegradable packaging film was produced by blending sugar palm starch with plasticizers like sorbitol, glycerol, etc. Water vapor permeability values were observed in the increased range of 4.855 × 10−10 to 8.70 × 10−10 g−1 s−1 Pa−1 irrespective of the plasticizer types in films [15]. Starch can be transformed into foamed material through water steam, thereby substituting polystyrene foam for packaging purposes. The processed material can be transformed into trays and disposable dishes by pressing. The products produced were nontoxic and easily biodegradable in the microbial environment within short period of time leaving CO2 and water as by-products [16]. Novament produces its own starch blends, and it is one of leading company in manufacturing starch-based products [4].

2.1.1 Starch Composites

Starch-based polymers have displayed deprived mechanical properties and high water vapor permeability when compared with synthetic plastics. Microcrystalline cellulose (MC), carbon nanotubes, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), nanoclays, fibers, etc. were added to starch-based polymers to improve their properties [8, 17]. The polymer blends produced by blending PLA, PCL, and starch have shown better biodegradation in natural environment when compared to pure PLA [18].

2.2 Cellulose

Cellulose is formed from linear chain of glucose molecules linked by highly polar and hydrophilic glycosidic β(1–4) bonds, and it is the most commonly found biopolymer in nature. Cellulose acts as structural component in plant materials, fungi, sea animals, and some amoeba [19]. As cellulose-based films are cost-effective and completely biodegradable, they offer immense scope in replacing petrochemical based plastics [20].

As cellulose are hydrophilic in nature, it encompasses a high crystalline structure and poor solubility, and it is difficult to use them as such for food packaging. But this can be solved by manufacturing cellulose derivatives through esterification reactions where cellulose are derivatized in the solvated state, thereby making it fit for packaging applications. The additives of cellulose esters like cellulose (tri)acetate and cellulose (di)acetate were previously added to convert them into thermoplastic materials. Cellulose ethers like ethyl cellulose when added with plasticizers could be utilized for molding and extrusion applications. A cellophane film was produced by dissolving cellulose in carbon-disulfide and sodium hydroxide mixture to make cellulose xanthate and then recasting them in sulfuric acid solution to produce cellophane film, suitable for food packaging applications [21].

Cellulose acetate-based nanocomposites comprising modified montmorillonite, triethyl citrate (plasticizer), and thymol (antimicrobial) have shown real promise to use it them for food packaging applications [22]. Modified form of cellulose like hydroxypropyl methylcellulose with silver nanoparticle matrix has also shown good ability to use it for food packaging [23]. The modification of cellulose fibers with other polymers or plasticizers increases their tensile strength and mechanical properties, e.g., PVA reinforced cellulose fiber showed increased tensile strength, thereby making composite films more suitable for packaging [24]. Dicarboxylic cellulose and α-hydroxysulfonic acid cellulose (HSAC) both modified cellulose fibers can be transformed into nature-friendly film materials. They have exhibited good mechanical properties like 9.6 GPa modulus and 47.0 MPa tensile strength [25].

Trifluroacetic acids (TFA), which are naturally organic and completely biodegradable, have the ability to transform agro-wastes abundant in cellulose to bioplastics material through aging them in TFA solution [26]. The mechanical property of biopolymers (brittle and rigid, soft and stretchable) varies according to the type of plant species and their chemical composition. Cellulose in TFA solutions can be blended with vegetable waste solutions to attain plasticization, and these plasticized materials are having the ability to replace petrochemical-based plastics [27]. Cellulose acetate, a cellulose derivative produced commercially worldwide, has the great capability to be used for food packaging applications (baked food, fresh food). So far many studies were carried out by adding cellulose fibers to starch-based films [28, 29], PLA (Sanchez-Garcia and Lagaron [30], and PHBV films [31]; it has been proved that they can be potentially be utilized for food packaging applications.

Cellulose fibers can be blended with PLA to produce biopolymer matrix material, but there exists the challenge of uniformly distributing the cellulose fibers in PLA matrix [32]. The hydroxyl groups present on the surface of cellulose fibers sometimes will join together and form agglomerate that results in crack formation and composite breakdown. The addition of surfactants [33], silylation [34], grafting [35], and acetylation [36] were followed to improve the dispersion mechanism, and significant progress has been achieved.

2.3 Polylactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is a completely biodegradable polymer manufactured from both fossil and renewable resources, and it’s proven to have potential to replace commercial polymers like HDPE, LDPE, PS, and PET [37]. Bacterial fermentation of corn or cane sugar is performed to manufacture lactic acid (LA), which is then converted to PLA through ring opening polymerization of LA with the use of a catalyst (shown in Fig. 2). This mechanism has been followed because normal method of polymerization generates more water, where its presence may degrade the formed polymer chain. By adding hydroxylic compounds, it is possible to control the molecular weight of PLA, and PLAs with high molecular weight are certified as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by US FDA. It is an odorless, colorless, glossy, stiff, low-toxicity polymer, suitable for direct food contact, and this biodegradable polyester has highest melting temperatures, around 160–190°C [39].
Fig. 2

Synthesis of Polylactic acid (PLA) from d and l-lactic acids (with permission from [38])

The PLAs can structurally be classified into three types, namely, poly(d,l-lactide) (PDLLA), poly(d-lactide) (PDLA), and poly(l-lactide) (PLLA) [40]. Among these, PDLLA is fully amorphous, where the others PDLA and PLLA are semicrystalline. Poly(d,l-lactide) with 90% l-lactide has been widely used for producing packaging materials [41].

PLA is having performance similar to that of PET, so it is feasible to use PLA as a potential substituent for PET in products like pouches, films and bottles, etc. Because of its brittle nature, less elongation (<10%) at break, deprived gas barrier properties, and high modulus and hydrophilic character, primarily its application has been limited to thermoformed packaging [42]. As PLAs have low melt strength, to process them into extruded sheets, foam and films’ higher melt strength is required [43].

The PLA has better thermal properties when compared with other biopolymers like poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL), PHA, and polyethylene glycol (PEG). The PLA has long crystallization rate, as it takes more period of time to form helical packing structure. The PLA needs to be modified and blended with further biodegradable polymers to use it for a wide variety of packaging applications. Conventional techniques such as blow molding, injection molding, film extrusion, fiber spinning, and thermoforming can be used for processing the blended PLAs [44]. The PLA majorly can be used for producing disposable tableware and especially for packaging foods having short shelf life like juices, yogurt, vegetables and fruits, etc.

For enhancing the properties like ductility and to accelerate crystallization, the PLAs are needed to be blended with fillers or other additives to form PLA composite films. So far many materials like nanoclays [45], plasticizers [46], starch [47], and carbon nanotubes [48] were blended in making PLA matrix. The significant improvements in thermal and mechanical properties were achieved when 2-methacryloyloxyethyl isocyanate (MOI) was blended with PLA [49]. The produced PLA-MOI, when compared with pure PLA, had 20 times higher percentage of elongation. Jiang and Zhang [50] blended PLA with other bioplastics like PBS, PHA, PCL, thermoplastic starch, and PBAT and achieved improved toughness and ductility.

In a recent study carried out by Bandera et al. [51], a latex-coated paper which is suitable for food packaging has been prepared by blending PLA with montmorillonite, surfactants, plasticizers, water, and chloroform via emulsion/solvent evaporation method. Improved water vapor transmission rate (up to 85%) was achieved in coated papers and the latex material is nontoxic, so it can securely be used for food packaging applications.

The properties of PLA may differ considerably from amorphous to semicrystalline based on d-lactide/l-lactide enantiomers ratio. In PLA the amorphous one, having 12% d-lactide enantiomer has the properties similar to polystyrene and can easily be processed via thermoforming. It has been effectively employed in food packaging sector under the name Natureworks-PLA manufactured by Natureworks-LLC (Blair, NB). Currently this has been in use for packaging of short shelf life products [52].

The water vapor and oxygen barrier properties of PLA were enhanced by coating PLA with PEO-Si/SiOx (polyethylene oxide), PCL-Si/SiOx (polycaprolactone), and MAP; these PLA films can potentially be employed for packaging medium shelf life products (vegetables, cheeses, fresh meat, processed meat) [53]. Also significant improvement in oxygen barrier and water vapor properties were achieved for number of polymers (nano-fibrillated cellulose film, PLA film, PHB, PLA-coated board) quoted with thin layer of AlOx (25 nm) Hirvikorpi et al. [54].

2.4 Genetically Modified or Naturally Occurring Organism-Based Bioplastics

Bacteria synthesize polymers like PHB and PHA via fermentation of starch or glucose, and further they are extracted by using solvents like methylene chloride and chloroform [55]. The properties of PHA like tensile strength, chain length, and brittleness depends upon the type of microorganism, carbon source used, and the monomer unit composition [56].

The melting point of PHAs ranges from 40 to 180°C based upon monomers involved in synthesis. PHAs when combined with starch or other bioplastics can effectively be used for packaging applications [57]. Poly(d-3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) is one of the monomers of PHA; apart from its brittleness, it has almost similar mechanical properties of PP [58, 59]. The huge crystalline domain is responsible for the brittle nature of PHB, as it has high Tg and crystallinity [60].

As the melting temperature (175–180°C) of PHB is similar to isotactic polypropylene (iPP), it can be used for intermediate bulk containers and shrink packaging [55]. Though the cost is high, it degrades in microbial environment in the shorter period (5–6 weeks) of time giving out CO2 and water as by-products under aerobic condition and, under anaerobic condition, it produces methane [61].

2.5 Multilayer Film Systems

In recent times, an alternative strategy of developing multilayer film systems based on PLA and PLA has emerged as the latest trend in improving the technological properties of biopolymers [62].

3 Active Packaging

The emergences in innovative packaging techniques are due to demand from consumer for palatable, mildly processed, and ready-to-eat foods with good quality and long shelf life. The ultimate goal of food packaging technology is to avoid food spoilage during farm to fork and also to eradicate hazards leading to foodborne illness. Recent changes in lifestyle where the consumer has less time to prepare meals have propelled the food packaging sector to develop new and inventive food packaging methods.

Latest techniques in the area of food packaging are intelligent packaging, active packaging, and bioactive packaging, which have shown significant promise in maintaining the freshness and extending the shelf life, thereby improving the quality and safety of food products [63].

Active packaging is an inventive concept which refers to the utilization of active materials including moisture absorbent, scavengers, and antimicrobial- and antioxidant-releasing systems that are used in food-enveloping environment to enhance the performance of packaging systems [64].

The major aims of active packaging are to prevent moisture infusion and microbial attack, reduce oxidation, regulate respiratory process, etc. It can be achieved with the help of CO2 scavengers/emitters, time-temperature sensors, biosensors, aroma emitters, ripeness indicators, ethylene scavengers, and prolonged release of antioxidants into the package during storage period.

A range of compounds such as organic acids including propionate, benzoate, sorbate and bacteriocins (pediocin and nisin), enzymes like lysozyme, fungicides, and metals were tested previously in food packaging for their antimicrobial activity [65, 66, 67]. For example, in Japan they have incorporated Ag-substituted zeolite as antimicrobial agent in packaging films. The Ag-ions have wide antimicrobial spectrum, and in active packaging films they inhibit variety of metabolic enzymes. However, there are some limitations that exist such as Ag-zeolite is costly and so far there are few descriptions reported regarding their application as packaging material. LDPE films comprising potassium sorbate have shown very good inhibitory effect against yeast cells. Currently, there are two commercial biocidal films available in the market; one is chlorine dioxide and the other one is a chlorinated phenoxy compound. The biocidal agent in both films resides in the polymer spaces and is released upon food contact or in response to changes in the environment.

3.1 Antimicrobial Packaging Concept

The antimicrobial agent may be coated onto films, or it can be directly incorporated into polymer material or packaging films to produce antimicrobial packaging films. The utilization of active antimicrobial compounds included in packaging material could be one approach for controlling bacterial pathogens in the food packaging system. This would ensure microbial food safety for consumer and also helps in extension of food’s shelf life.

The mechanism of action in antimicrobial film may be migrating or non-migrating, it depends on the interaction between food matrix and the packaging. The antimicrobial agents can be infused in vapor or gradually diffused through food surface for migrating film applications, whereas it can be applied over the surface for non-migrating film applications. The release of active antimicrobial compounds in the food packaging should be tightly regulated and controlled; otherwise it might pose a safety risk to consumers.

3.1.1 Bacteriocins

Bacteriocins are peptidicantimicrobials which are synthesized mostly by lactic acid-producing bacteria and show bactericidal activity against major food pathogens. Bacteriocins can be used in antimicrobial packaging to improve product quality, safety, and shelf life as their use in food has been well recognized by the US FDA, WHO, and FAO. For example, the population of lactic acid bacteria has been reduced many folds in ham and sliced cheese stored at refrigerated temperatures, when they were applied with antimicrobial agent like immobilized bacteriocins lacticin 3,147 and nisin, thereby extending the shelf life. In a different study, low-density polyethylene film coated with sonorensin, a subfamily of bacteriocins, effectively reduced growth of Gram-positive food spoilage bacterial pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes and S. aureus in chicken meat and tomato samples [68]. Recently, Emiliano et al. demonstrated that triticale flour films with bacteriocin like substance effectively controlled the growth of Listeria innocua in food packaging containers [69]. Natamycin-based anti-fungal coating is commercially available under the brand name SANICO® to be used in cheese and sausages [70].

3.1.2 Enzymes

Enzyme immobilization can be employed as an effective system for antimicrobial-based food packaging. Lysozyme has been permitted to be used as antimicrobial agent by the US FDA, and its use as a food additives falls under Directive 94/2/EC. Lysozyme is a single peptide protein which targets and destroys the glyosidic linkages in the peptidoglycans of Gram-positive bacteria. Cellulose triacetate (CTA) films immobilized with lysozyme have reduced M. lysodeikticus cell numbers by 7 log cycles (equivalent mass) within 24 h, suggesting its potential for food packaging applications [71]. In a different study, lysozyme-chitosan composite films incorporated with 60% lysozyme have reduced Streptococcus faecalis and E. coli by 3.8 and 2.7 log cycles (equivalent mass), respectively [72]. The covalent immobilization of lysozyme over the surface of ethanol vinyl alcohol copolymers have reduced the growth of Gram-positive Listeria monocytogenes (1.08 log reduction for an equivalent mass of covalently immobilized lysozyme) with no migration of lysozyme from the films, suggesting utilization of these films for food packaging applications [73]. The antimicrobial membranes attained from polyamide 11(PA11) and nano-hybrid composed of halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) filled with lysozyme were effective as antimicrobial pads for chicken meat storage. The membrane filled with 5.0 wt% of HNTs-lysozyme reduced the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa for up to 13 days of storage at 4°C [74]. Antilisterial films of lysozyme based on zein were developed with a consumer-controlled and pH-triggered release mechanism. During transportation the antimicrobial stress is increased over pathogens in consumer-controlled release mechanisms [75].

3.1.3 Plants Extracts and Phytochemicals

A great interest has been shown in the utilization of plant extracts for edible polymer-based food packaging applications. Incorporation of phytochemicals into polymer-based packaging material has shown to improve its physiochemical properties. For example, incorporation of clove, star anise, and cinnamon extracts into hydrolyzed gelatin film has reduced their water vapor permeability and improved tensile strength. In a different study, incorporation of grape seed extract (GSE) into soybean protein isolate films resulted in bactericidal effects against food safety pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli 0157:H7, and Salmonella typhimurium [76, 77, 78]. Antimicrobial activity of plant-based antimicrobial films may be attributed due to the high phenolic content containing components like carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol. For example, thymol and carvacrol (8 wt%) have shown promising application as active additives in polypropylene (PP) films with dual response of controlled antioxidant and antimicrobial release into food material. Thus, they can be able to replace synthetic antioxidants employed in PP film formulations [79]. Nanocomposite antimicrobial films prepared using LDPE and carvacrol have displayed remarkable oxygen barrier property and thermal stability with significant antimicrobial activity against Pseudomonas stains [79]. In another study, five chitosan-based films containing carvacrol showed antimicrobial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Listeria innocua, and Salmonella enteritidis. The minimal vapor inhibitory concentration obtained for S. enteritidis was 1.08 × 10−7 g mL−1 (Kmass = 1.01 × 10−4), and for B. subtilis, E. coli, and L. innocua, it was 4.62 × 10−8 g mL−1 (Kmass = 1.13 × 10−6), respectively. Carvacrol-activated active films have displayed antimicrobial effect at their vapor phase against bacterial pathogens [80].

3.1.4 Essential Oils

Essential oil incorporation into packaging system reduces transparency and improves the antimicrobial and water barrier properties. Essential oils extracted from plants and spices such as cumin, fennel, laurel, mint, sage, savory, garlic, clove, and cinnamon are rich source of antimicrobial compounds. Major antimicrobial action mechanisms include disruption of phospholipid bilayer of cell membrane, disruption of enzyme activity, effect on protein synthesis, and production of hydrogen peroxide [81, 82]. Antimicrobial properties of garlic, rosemary, and oregano essential oils dispersed in whey protein isolate (WPI) films were tested against Salmonella enteritidis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes by means of assay of zone of inhibition. Results indicated that the films incorporated with oregano oil (2%) were observed to be effective against bacteria when compared with other spices [83]. In a different study, essential oil of rosemary has been incorporated in chitosan films, and it showed effective antibacterial activity against bacteria like Streptococcus agalactiae and Listeria monocytogenes [84]. Biodegradable trays (polyvinyl alcohol and cassava bagasse) containing oregano and clove essential oils were manufactured by two methods: direct incorporation (6.5–10.0%) and surface coating (2.5–7.5%); high antimicrobial activities were observed for surface-coated trays against spoilage yeasts, molds, and Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria [85]. Electrospun polyvinyl alcohol/β-cyclodextrin(PVA/CEO/β-CD)/cinnamon essential oil nanofibrous antimicrobial film has shown effective antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus with MBC of approximate 7–8 mg/mL and MIC of 0.9−1 mg/mL [86]. Dextrin-based nanosponges incorporated with coriander essential oil (CEO) have shown significant bactericidal effect against food safety pathogens. Authors reported that whole essential oils incorporated in nanosponges (CD-NS) displayed efficient ability in controlling the oil release, while restraining bacterial growth, hence providing a promising strategy in overcoming the inefficiency of present antimicrobial food packages [87].

3.2 Antioxidant Release

Antioxidants are utilized into active packaging films to maintain oxidation stability of lipids and to prolong shelf life of dried products and O2-sensitive foods. Natural, synthetic, and nanoparticle-based antioxidants have been successfully developed into multiple layer films. The synthetic antioxidants like thioester, butylated hydroxytoluene, and organophosphates sometimes migrate into food products, thereby creating potential toxicity issues, and due to this, the usage of such antioxidants are restricted in active packaging [88]. Hence, such artificial additives are currently replaced with natural alternatives like essential oils and plant extracts which exhibit antioxidant properties. The oxidative damage caused to foods can be reduced by employing edible-coated films which does it by reducing the oxygen transmission rate. The selection of bioactive compound depends on its compatibility with the packaging. For example, food packaging material ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) matrix incorporated with antioxidants like quercetin, ferulic acid, green tea extract, and ascorbic acid had significantly decreased water permeability. Moreover, green tea extract incorporated films has shown great protection against lipid oxidation [89]. In a different study, cassava starch films comprising rosemary extracts have shown better barrier properties against UV light and good antioxidant activity [90]. Solvent casting method was used to incorporate oregano, rosemary, and thyme essential oils (EOs) into polylactic acid resin (PLA, concentration 10% w/w) to produce antioxidant packaging films. Addition of EOs significantly reduced lipid oxidation and improved the shelf life of the product [91]. An active packaging material of κ-carrageenan incorporated with different amounts of mulberry polyphenolic extract (MPE) has improved water vapor, UV light barrier, antioxidant, and pH-sensitive activity of the films [92].

One of the major advantages of using antioxidant incorporated packaging films rather than antioxidants directly added to food is that the active antioxidant materials incorporated in packaging could be able to provide a controlled release of them into food, when compared to constant usage of antioxidants during storage [93]. Taken together, sometimes direct coating of antioxidants over the surface of packaging material and/or food may result in sensory disapproval. Hence, when packaging materials are produced by incorporating antioxidants in the packaging matrix, it may aid in improving food safety and quality by reducing direct accumulation of chemicals.

4 Conclusion

Nowadays due to recent advancements in technologies and awareness among people to conserve our planet, there is a great potential for using bioplastics as food packaging materials. Most of bioplastics are currently employed in the production of loose film which is having potential to be used for service packaging such as cutlery, cups, carry bags, and plates and for recent packaging like active packaging (antimicrobial, antioxidant), intelligent packaging, modified atmospheric packaging, etc. Over the last few years, there were much efforts undertaken to enhance the functional properties like flexibility, functionality, biodegradability, stability, and processability of bioplastics through physical, biological, and chemical treatment such as blending, compounding, copolymerization, and fermentation. The bioplastics developed by improving the functional properties may have almost same properties like petroleum-based plastics, but due the high developmental costs involved, the cost of production of biopolymers are still high. More investigations are needed in the future toward the development of cost effective intelligent and smart packaging systems, which can be able to provide information related to properties of the food within the package (microbiological safety, quality, shelf life, nutritional value). The smart packaging systems not only provide information regarding food to customers; they also act as potential barrier in safeguarding the food and ensuring the integrity of food properties. On the other note, it is also expected that more support is needed from the governments, particularly in the developed countries to cut down the large price difference between biodegradable packaging and conventional plastic packaging.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial ChemistryArba Minch UniversityArba MinchEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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