NextGen Packaging from Agri-Waste

North by Northwest Partners Background
The packaging industry is rapidly changing, as government legislation and increasing pressure from consumers continues to drive a shift to more sustainable manufacturing processes and packaging. Conventional fossil-based plastics create substantial waste disposal problems due to their lack of biodegradability. The environmental pollution caused by the accumulation of plastics in the environment highlights the need to develop innovative packaging solutions.
One solution which continues to prove popular is making a switch to recyclable and compostable plastic. AgriPac is looking at new and intelligent ways to create alternatives to plastic packaging for everyday use by developing biodegradable materials that will shape the future of our environmental impact. This solution will reduce the amount of organic materials sent to landfill and provide added value to waste materials generated in the agri-food industry.
Technology Overview
AgriPac continues to develop innovative agri-derived biopolymer food packaging solutions for a variety of products. These functional and compostable materials will reduce the burden on depleting petroleum resource, offering a sustainable and renewable feedstock for the polymer industry. In addition, the conversion of low‑value cellulosic waste/by-products into higher value packaging materials enhances the circular economy by incentivising the agricultural industry to view ‘waste’ as an opportunity for added value.
This innovation is based on the melt-extrusion of cellulose, isolated from agri-waste, with a fully compostable biobased extrudable polymer (commercially available). Another component of the innovation is the gas barrier protein coating derived from rapeseed cake. Current technologies combine fossil-based materials to achieve the required barrier properties necessary for packaging sensitive food such as fish, meat, and poultry. In addition, this innovation eliminates the slow biodegradation rate concerns of PLA-based materials – this invention is PLA-free.
The composites are degradable under commercial compost conditions. The ratio of cellulose and biobased extrudable polymer determine the final material properties such as density, porosity, and strength (, , ).
Stage of Development
Proof-of-concept has been established and several abundant waste streams have been identified. A paper detailing these waste streams is available here: (https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1d7xS3HVLKksCv).
Benefits
Key features of AgriPac’s innovation include:

Waste-based packaging – derived from agri-food wastes, not petroleum or virgin feedstock.
Biodegradable and compostable – AgriPac’s waste derived materials offers an alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
Better end-of-life option – materials can be discarded with food waste by the end-user.​
Lower carbon footprint – 15-80% less than conventional fossil-based packaging, depending on the material formulation.
Compatible with existing production facilities – waste-derived cellulose-based materials are compatible with existing machinery with no additional capital investment.
Added income for growers/food processors – provides opportunities for the agri-food sector to utilise their wastes for value-added materials.
Meet sustainable targets – compostable materials will help retailers achieve their sustainable targets, meet consumer demands and Government’s sustainability targets.
Functional – materials can be coated with plant-based protein for enhanced barrier properties.
Implementable in existing industrial composting facilities – incorporation of materials into existing composting facilities without compromising the waste stream, due to them being PLA free.

Applications
AgriPac’s materials are versatile and can be tailored to specific applications.

Packaging industry
Pulp and paper industry
Food and beverage industry
Horticultural industry

The team also has know-how which includes:

Waste characterisation for agri-food waste producers (agri-food sector)
Developing SOP’s for packaging manufacturers to produce cellulose-based materials.

Opportunity
Seeking collaborative research partners, interested in facilitating the next phase of scale‑up and certification.
The team is particularly interested in brand owners and retailers who are interested in using this innovation to improve their sustainability profile.
Also open to licensing opportunities with:

Growers and food producers that are interested in adding value to their waste streams or would like to apply the process, to extract key components from agri-waste streams for supply to the polymer industry.
Packaging manufacturers that would like to apply the process to convert the extracted material to biopolymer pellets for secondary processing.

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