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IIT Madras researchers develop sustainable anti-bacterial food wrapper

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras has developed a Sustainable Antimicrobial Wrapping Material that can tackle two major problems – prevent packaged food contamination by bacteria as well as reduce the plastic waste generated in the environment when disposing the wrappers.

This biodegradable food wrapper has an in-built anti-bacterial compound and is safe for consumption. The IIT Madras research team was recently awarded the ‘SITARE- Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Appreciation 2020’ for this project. The researchers have also filed for an Indian patent.

The research was led by Prof. Mukesh Doble, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras and Puja Kumari, Research scholar, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras.

Elaborating on their Research, Prof. Mukesh Doble, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, said, “We have developed a biodegradable wrapping material with in-built antibacterial activity to prevent bacterial growth in stored food. The antibacterial compound should be safe for consumption as it is approved by the authorities and does not cause any toxicity.”

The researchers also found that the wrapping material degraded at various environmental conditions with rate of degradation varying from 4 to 98 per cent in 21 days. The material degraded rapidly in moist condition when compared to dry ones.

The films developed by IIT Madras Researchers were made with Polymeric blends containing starch, polyvinyl alcohol, cyclic beta glucans (CBG). The composition was optimised to achieve the best film with a smooth texture, flexibility, uniform thickness and good clarity. The polymers used are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, the antibacterial agent selected is also approved by the food authority.

Around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year. According to waste management experts, only 9 percent of all plastic waste gets recycled and about 12 per cent has been incinerated. Further, an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die every year.