How can bananas be used to fight the plastic waste crisis?

Graphical summary. Credit: Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.scp.2023.101400

Bananas are one of the most popular and widely consumed fruits in the world. They are also the fourth most widely grown crop in the world, trailing only rice, wheat and maize. What does this tropical fruit have to do with fighting the ongoing plastic waste crisis?

A lot, possibly, according to Srinivasa Janaswamy, associate professor of food chemistry in South Dakota State University’s Department of Dairy and Food Science. His study, entitled “Biodegradable packaging films from banana peel fiber.” was published in the journal. Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy.

“Many of us eat at least one banana a day,” said Janaswamy. “After enjoying more fruit, we discard the peel. What if we find a use for the peel that helps eliminate plastic waste?”

For the past few years, Janaswamy has been researching how various agricultural byproducts like banana and avocado peels can be used to make biodegradable films — plastic-like packaging materials that will decompose in the environment. One of the biggest challenges with petroleum-based plastics — the most common type of plastic — is its lack of decomposition.

For example, Like plastic bags, it will take 20 years to decompose. With very little plastic being recycled, most end up in landfills or litter the larger environment, causing serious health and environmental impacts. Finding an alternative such as plastic that will decompose relatively quickly will go a long way in the ongoing fight. crisis.

“Overall, the lack of biodegradability of plastics and its impact on human health and the environment warrants remedial measures with a viable alternative,” said Janaswamy. “Banana peels stand out as a promising and cheap material.”

Banana by-products

Because bananas are one of the most widely grown fruits in the world, they produce a large amount of by-products. around the world, Produces about 220 tons of residue per 2.5 acres. Banana residues are mainly composed of lignocellulosic material, which is the key ingredient for making biodegradable films.

“Lignocellulosic residue from biowaste stands out as a viable alternative for making bioplastics due to its robust structure, biodegradability, low density and non-toxicity,” notes Janswamy.

Banana residue—the peel—is almost always unused, making it the closest byproduct to use for this task.

“Every year, about 36 million tons produced, most of which is disposed of as waste,” said Janaswamy. “The food processing industry produces banana chips, flour, juice, jam, baby food and other products in landfills. Wastes large amounts of banana peels. It is important to find more practical uses of banana peels to provide financial benefits to the agricultural industry and prevent environmental pollution.”

How can bananas be used to fight the plastic waste crisis?

Janaswamy, left, prepares a lignocellulosic solution from banana residue for film production with one of his graduate research assistants, Somi Rajami, pictured right. Credit: South Dakota State University

On top of that, banana production has grown by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020 and is expected to continue to grow over the next decade. With the increase in demand for packaged and processed foods, the need for plastic packaging materials is also expected to increase.

In short, there is a dire need for an environmentally friendly plastic-like packaging material. In a new study, Jinnaswamy and Mominul Haque, a graduate research assistant at SDSU, demonstrated how banana peels can be used to make biodegradable films—one that could one day replace petroleum plastics for food packaging. May change as dominant content.

From peel to ‘plastic’

The research team first turned the used husks into bran using a blender. Then, as Jinaswamy and his team had previously done with avocado peels, spent coffee grounds and switchgrass, they extracted the lignocellulosic material using a chemical treatment process. The extracted fibers then underwent bleaching, distillation and treatment before being made into film. After drying, the properties of the film were examined.

“The films are strong and transparent, and more importantly, biodegrade within 30 days at 21 percent soil moisture,” said Janaswamy. “This discovery opens up new possibilities for designing and developing plastic-replacement biodegradable packaging for banana peels and other byproducts of fruit processing.”

Transparency is one of the essential properties of films, as consumers prefer transparent packaging to gauge the freshness of food. The films produced in this study were more transparent than previous films made from various by-products.

Values ​​associated with and elongation can be used to assess whether a film can maintain its integrity as a food packaging material. As Janaswamy notes, the values ​​associated with banana peel films are higher than commercial grocery bags.

“Banana peel fiber films exhibit tensile strengths of over 30 MPa, which will certainly be attractive for sack bags and related packaging applications,” explained Janaswamy.

Overall, the characterizations suggest that banana peels can be a viable material used to fabricate biodegradable films.

Janaswamy added, “Our research, which involves green and recyclable chemicals, is a promising economical and sustainable way to make biodegradable films to replace petrochemical plastics and thus a circular bioeconomy. It’s an attractive partnership.”

Further research will investigate the scalability and commercialization of this manufacturing process to improve film flexibility.

More information:
Momin-ul-Haq et al., Biodegradable Packaging Films from Banana Peel Fiber, Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.scp.2023.101400

Reference: How bananas can be used to fight the plastic waste crisis (2024, February 16) Retrieved February 17, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-bananas-plastic-crisis.html has been

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