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An edible cellulose-based material as a substitute for single-use plastic packaging

A collaboration project between researchers at the IMB-CNM-CSIC, the ICMAB-CSIC and the UAB was chosen as the most innovative in the “Generating Ideas” Program focused on Smart Food, organised by the UAB Research Park (PRUAB). The initiative Cellupack aims to develop a cellulose-based material to substitute the single-use plastics in food.

Cellulose-based prototype. Image: Anna May / ICMAB.The proposal promotes circular economy and seeks to solve the recycling and reusing issues of the current packaging, keeping the consumption of water to a minimum. The prototype is one step ahead of the European regulation, approved in 2019, which will forbid the use of all single-use plastic products in 2021.

“After checking the needs of the sector and the demand for a more sustainable type of packaging, we decided to develop a prototype whose production was not polluting”, explains Camilla Dore, PhD student at the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB). Dore launched and proposed the initial idea to her teammates, Michele Dei, at the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona (IMB-CNM), and the food technologist Elena Jacas, at the Ethics, Veterinary and Food Legislation Department of the UAB.

Camilla Dore with the prototype. Image: Anna May / ICMAB.“It is a biodegradable, edible, water soluble and transparent material, with a touch appearance similar to the one of a PET container”, adds Michele Dei. The company Carburos Metálicos has already shown interest in the project, still in the developing phase.

The Generating Ideas Program at the PRUAB aims to create synergies between researchers, organisations and businesses. The first part of the program are creative sessions to generate ideas, while in the second one the participants are trained in issues such as intellectual property and financing.