Biodegradable packaging made of bread and pastry leftovers
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT According to experts, bread and pastry leftovers are currently used, in less than 20%, in animal feed products. The remaining leftovers are brought to the dumping site without separating them from their package, which makes their recycling process more complex. Throughout a European project involving the Centro Tecnológico de Cereales (CETECE), a cereal technology center in Palencia (Spain), the ultimate objective is to make good use o these byproducts in order to design a beneficial alternative for the environment: a polymer to make biodegradable plastic packaging.
As we were told by Ana Garcinuño Prados, head of de Department for RDi in CETECE, a project called BREAD4PLA was set up because “industries must become more environmentally-friendly and waste must be minimized and reassessed”.
The initiative involves a consortium of four European research centers, each of them being experts in different areas: Instituto Tecnológico del Plástico de Valencia (AIMPLAS) – a Spanish technological institute of plastics coordinating the project- , CETECE, Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik Potsdam-Bornim (ATB) – a German institute of agriculture- and the Bangor University in the United Kingdom. A total of 40 researchers are to work in this project.
As Garcinuño told us, the end goals of the project are: “to identify and classify the major waste from bread-making industries (defective bread, crusts, cake remains, etc.) and to upgrade lactic fermentation processes to obtain lactic acid”.
Developing the Polymer
Next, they expect to synthesize and polymerize polylactic acid (PLA) from lactic acid, that is, to obtain the bioplastic and develop “a biodegradable plastic film from PLA with physical, chemical and mechanical properties suitable to be used as food packaging”. Specifically, as the researcher states, the intention is to use this new material in bread packaging.
The project was endorsed in 2011 and it is expected to be carried out by the end of 2013. “We could say half of the project was actually executed, that is, the major leftovers have already been identified and classified and fermentation processes have been upgraded to obtain lactic acid”, Garcinuño explains. The Bangor University is currently working on PLA polymerization.
BREAD4PLA was presented to the European Commission in 2010 and is part of a European program called LIFE+ that aims to strengthen the knowledge base for community development assessment, monitoring and evaluation regarding nature and biodiversity.
The total budget is approximately one million Euros; 50% was granted by the European Commision, the rest must be contributed by the centers involved.
According to Ana Garcinuño, CETECE got involved in BREAD4PLA because of previous contact with Aimplas, the project coordinator, “aware of our activities and technological capability and our desire to run joint projects”. Specifically, CETECE has two major tasks: “to identify, classify and characterize bread and pastry leftovers, analyzing their composition and microbiological aspects in our laboratories, and to prove plastic’s acceptability, performing a useful lifetime study (sensory and microbiological behavior over time) of bakery products packed in the new material”.