Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS


HORTIBIOPACK Berichtzusammenfassung

Project ID: 232551
Gefördert unter: FP7-SME
Land: Greece

Periodic Report Summary 2 - HORTIBIOPACK (Development of innovative biodegradable packaging system to improve shelf life, quality and safety of high-value sensitive horticultural fresh produce)

Project Context and Objectives:
The targeted EMAP composition of selected representative fruits (peaches) and vegetables (cherry tomatoes) were determined experimentally. Moreover, the respiration and transpiration rates of these two species at the targeted EMAP conditions were determined.
PLA, a commercial bio-based material is strong, transparent, can be extruded in very thin film (down to 20 microns) and can be perforated, possibly micro-perforated. Therefore, the selection of the biodegradable polymer PLA to be used in HortiBioPack was based on mechanical, permeability and optical properties and the commercial availability and prices of these materials. Processing of PLA film to enhance its mechanical and permeability performance was investigated while an innovative design methodology for EMAP of horticultural produce was developed through an easy-to-use analytical model. In this model (based on the PLA barrier properties) the CO2/O2 concentrations could be regulated by micro-perforations of the PLA film through optimized processing while the WV concentration could be regulated by the permeable film area. Full scale experiments were carried out for validating the performance of the new optimized EMAP system. Furthermore, alternative processing for active antimicrobial coatings added on the PLA film (e.g zeolites) were tested in order to assess their anti-pathogen activity.
The new PLA EMAP system provides considerably lower weight loss than unpacked fruits and lower spoilage than conventional OPP packaging due to lower relative humidity. As a result it offers longer shelf life. The economic analysis performed indicates that the expected benefit of a retailer using PLA EMAP bags is approximately 11 €/100 Kg for peaches and 6.5 €/100 Kg for cherry tomatoes, based on the results of the full scale experiments (data of 2012).
Following the European legislation on the management of packaging waste and biodegradable plastic waste, recommendations on a clear European policy towards the environmental friendly handling of the new bio-based biodegradable packaging for horticultural products are offered.

Project Results:
Project context and objectives
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a technique used for prolonging the shelf-life period of fresh or minimally processed foods. In this preservation technique the air surrounding the food in the package is changed to another composition. In this way the initial fresh state of the product may be prolonged. It is the shelf-life of perishable products like meat, fish, fruits and vegetables that will be prolonged with MAP since it slows the natural deterioration of the product. From MAP a new packaging technique − EMAP has been developed. The growing popularity of EMAP for vegetables and fruits can be explained by the behaviour of the modern consumer who demands fresh vegetables and fruits of a long shelf-life without the use of preservatives. Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging (EMAP) of Fresh Produce is an effective method for prolonging the shelf-life of fresh and minimally processed produce - making it ideal for long haul transport, exporters, the hospitality trade and retail packaging. Because EMAP enables processors to extend shelf-life without using chemicals it is also ideal for the packaging of organic produce. EMAP for the packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables differs markedly from the MAP designed for meat, fish, poultry and bakery goods in that produce is still "alive" and respiring. Traditional gas flushed, barrier MAP packs used in the meat industry are unsuitable for the produce industry. The films typically used in the produce industry are selectively breathable films that offer high clarity, good sealing, and anti-fog properties. The EMAP benefits include:
o More consistent product for customers.
o Increased opportunities for supply to major outlets.
o Increased branding and marketing opportunities.
o Longer shelf life - fewer deliveries, reduced requirements for working weekends/public holidays.
o Ability to hold produce longer to take advantage of market price fluctuations - ie. hold low sell high.
o Inherently safer product with physical protection from contaminants, foreign matter and pathogens.
o Extension to HACCP and QC systems, and traceability right to consumer.
Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is increasingly used with minimally processed fresh produce. Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging (EMAP) of Fresh Produce is also increasingly used recently to extend shelf-life of fresh produce. Increased MAP and EMAP usage coupled with negative environmental views associated with nondegradable, fossil oil based synthetic packaging materials, creates a societal and SMEs need for biodegradable bio-based films for MAP and EMAP.
HORTIBIOPACK aimed at developing innovative and safe biodegradable Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging film systems based mainly on the use of environmental friendly biodegradable renewable raw materials and aimed at the improvement of the shelf life, quality and safety of specific high value sensitive horticultural fresh produce.
1. Design biodegradable Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging film systems to offer enhanced barrier properties tailored to achieve Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere Packaging (EMAP) of high value fresh horticultural produce through the development of new and existing technologies (optimised design of barrier properties combining laser micro-perforation and breathable membrane technologies).
2. Develop active and intelligent packaging materials which regulate the modified atmosphere and actively interact to prevent spoilage (i.e. antimicrobial action) through modified nano-fillers against microbial action.
3. Develop compostable packaging systems, mainly based on renewable raw materials, CEN 13432 certified.
4. Optimise EMAP systems in terms of design and low-cost, with enhanced mechanical and physical behaviour through optimisation of the processing parameters of low thickness film and and special additives along with the virgin material in the material synthesis, depending on the application

Potential Impact:
The project reached its objectives with only minor deviations. An extension was requested and granted in order to cope with the non-availability of peaches throughout the year. The main project results are summarized as following:
1. An innovative EMAP system based on compostable biobased PLA was developed
2. This new EMA packaging proved to be more versatile in controlling the in-package atmosphere due to the high WVTR of PLA combined with laser micro-perforation of the thin PLA film.
3. The new optimized EMAP offered longer or at least equal shelf life in all tested produce.
4. The new PLA packaging is compatible with most of the active antimicrobial techniques used.
5. Despite the currently higher price of PLA compared to OPP, the longer shelf life obtained by using the new EMAP system result in considerable economic benefits.
6. Recommendations are offered for the implementation of a clear European policy towards the environmental friendly handling of the new bio-based biodegradable packaging for horticultural products and for ensuring food safety
The project results demonstrated that the use of PLA films for developing EMA packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables, not only offers a sustainable biobased alternative to conventional oil based packaging systems, but also provides a better optimised Equilibrium Modified Atmosphere in the package, thus the spoilage incidents are reduced and the shelf life of the produce is prolonged. Consequently, the use of PLA EMAP systems may result into an economic benefit for the fresh produce retailers despite the higher cost of PLA compared to oil-based competitors.
The project also contributed to the acceptance of biobased plastics by the public. Specifically, European legislation on the management of packaging waste and biodegradable plastic waste and bio-waste, current practices, trends, problems and challenges, recommendations and reports by experts, organizations, stakeholders and the EU have being analysed in the framework of HortiBioPack, as they form the general framework under which the innovative bio-based compostable EMAP system will be promoted in the market. As a result of this analysis, recommendations were offered for the implementation of a clear European policy towards the environmental friendly handling of the new bio-based biodegradable packaging for horticultural products in strict compliance with appropriate standards under certain well defined conditions.

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