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New Technology for Food Wrappers Based on Extract from Algae

A Chinese research team based in Qingdao, Shandong province, is developing a new technology for food packaging that is expected to be ecologically friendly and pose no threat to people’s health.

Xu Jiachao, a professor at the College of Food Science and Engineering at Ocean University of China, led the research team. The team used alginate, an extract from brown algae, rather than plastic, to make food wrappers.

“The food wrapper can achieve 100 percent degradation in 6 to 12 months, without any environmental pollution,” said Xu, adding that it is also safe for people. It can endure temperatures ranging from -80 to 120 C.

Xu and his team started their research in 2012 and conducted tens of thousands of experiments. “Alginate is renewable and nontoxic, and has excellent film-forming properties when crosslinked by calcium ions. But it tends to be fragile,” said Xu, who has focused on research of marine creatures for many years.

Finally, the team added another ion and tried to make the new food wrapper stronger. They called it “double-ions film-forming technology” and have applied for a patent. “The technology still needs improving, and we will conduct more experiments,” Xu said.

Most food wrappers in the market to date are made from plastic.