Slippery Packaging to Tackle Food Waste

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Researchers created an innovative ‘slippery’ plastic packaging that limits wastage from food packages.

A team of researchers at Virginia Tech studied vegetable oils that would be compatible with extruded plastics. The study helped the team to develop an innovative ‘slippery’ plastic packaging which helps the contents of the package to easily squeeze out with negligible remains behind it.

The study published in Scientific Reports on August 2018, explains the innovative “slippery” plastic packaging was designed to minimize the food waste commonly left behind in condiment, dairy and beverage packaging. The researchers experimented with a method for wicking chemically compatible vegetable oils into the surfaces of common extruded plastics. The surface acts repulsively for the food content and thus enables the consumer to empty the whole of the content easily.

The development of ‘slippery’ packaging has also helped to put a check on the enormous amount of edible food that were simply thrown out every year. Most consumers don’t realize that food left behind in plastic packaging contributes to huge food waste over time. These small, incremental amounts of sticky foods like condiments, dairy products, beverages, and some meat products that remain trapped in their packaging can add up to millions of pounds of perfectly edible food.

“SLIPS, or slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces, have been made using silicon – or fluorine-based polymers, which are very expensive,” says Ranit Mukherjee, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics within the College of Engineering and the study’s lead author. The science behind the invention by the team could be easily infused in inexpensive and readily available plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene. “But we can make our SLIPS out of these hydrocarbon-based polymers, which are widely applicable to everyday packaged products,” added Ranjit.

The innovated ‘slippery’ packaging serves other benefits such as improved design, consumer safety and comfort, besides checking food wastages.

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