and the Food Packaging Industry
According to data from the World Bank, every year in Mexico 24 million tons of food are wasted. This means that 34% of the country’s production is not only NOT consumed, but also generates an average expense of 491 billion pesos.
This impact is not only economic, but it is a problem that extends to the social sphere, due to the well-known food crisis and to the environment, due to the high water requirements for food production processes that will not be used and whose decomposition will contribute considerable CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
Within this multifactorial problem, the container and packaging industry, also known as “packing”, is a crucial actor considering that there are unavoidable conditions such as temperature, humidity, lighting, oxygen and numerous handling practices throughout the entire supply chain. production of food, which affect its quality, shelf life and acceptability by consumers.
In the search for solutions to improve the quality of packing products and, consequently, their content, nanotechnology has been a great ally. For example, to avoid microbial contamination, nanoparticles of silver, titanium dioxide, copper oxide, carbon nanotubes or magnesium oxide are used; to improve the mechanical or barrier properties, it is common to use nanoparticles of silicate, clay, polyamide, iron or iron oxides, cellulose nanofibers and for other needs there are nanoparticles of tungsten, molybdenum, barium sulfate, barium titanate , chitosan, zeolites, activated carbon, etc.
Graphene nanoparticles are mainly made up of carbon, like graphite and diamond, but with multifunctional characteristics. This means that they do not have a single function, but rather, unlike other nanoparticles, Graphene, due to its extraordinary physical and chemical properties, can be used for different purposes, for example, to design lighter and more resistant products, with greater impermeability against liquids and gases, in addition to protecting against microbial contamination and against UV radiation, among other properties that substantially improve the performance of the compounds with which it is combined.
“Graphene has crossed the limits of laboratories to reach commercial applications to combat the main enemies of food”, these are some examples of what is being developed for the Packing industry:
The Swedish company Tetra Pak, leader in research and development in the packaging sector, through the European Graphene Flagship project, studies the use of Graphene for the manufacture of products with low environmental impact to reduce the carbon footprint, improve the performance of materials, add properties and optimize recyclability.
The Spanish company Applynano uses nanomaterials, including graphene oxide, to promote the durability and recyclability of plastics, as well as to improve antimicrobial, thermal, and electrical properties, among others.
Plastic Technology Center (Andaltec)
The Technological Center of Plastic (Andaltec) within the European project Grafood, had the initiative to use derivatives of Graphene for the development of active packaging to increase the shelf life of food and reduce food waste.
Energeia – Graphenemex®
The Mexican company Energeia – Graphenemex®, through the polymer division Graphenergy Advanced Graphenic Solutions, promotes the use of Graphene and its derivatives as nano-reinforcement of plastic for different industries. Among the benefits it offers for the packing industry are mechanical resistance and resistance to degradation by UV radiation, greater barrier effect and interesting antimicrobial properties, highly promising for prolonging the life of products and their contents. Likewise, in addition to adding value to its developments with the multifunctional properties of Graphene and its derivatives, the company also aims to support other innovation projects with graphene nanotechnology, while seeking to collaborate with the circular economy to improve the quality of new and recycled plastic materials, to reduce the consumption of single-use products.