Scandanavia's largest independent research organization introduces "bioplastic."

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
BioPlastic Food Packaging
Credit: © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Food packaging keeps your ingredients fresh longer and is good for the planet sounds too good to be true, right? One Norweigan company begs to differ. Scientists at SINTEF, Scandanavia's largest independent research organization, are prepared to unveil a new kind of packaging made from a plant-based "bioplastic," which has the potential to revolutionize how you buy, store, and utilize your groceries, all the while reducing waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, a third of all food produced in the world is wasted, and much of this waste is generated by retail outlets and consumers who blindly follow "best by" dates on packages, often throwing away edible food due to a label. This particular issue led to the launch of an E.U. project that aimed to develop a smart packaging that would both extend the shelf life of food and be able to notify the consumer when the food is no longer safe for consumption.

Four years later, SINTEF claims to have accomplished this feat, combining biopolymers, nanopartical components, and other way-over-our-heads technology, to create a new kind of "green" plastic. The use of improved oxygen barriers in the bioplastic "provides the packaging with new and improved food preservation properties," says SINTEF's Åge Larsen. "It is designed mainly to protect the contents from their surroundings and thus extend shelf life."

Researchers have also developed a sensor that will change color when the food has soured, the temperature has become too high for safe consumption, or the pH levels are off. While there is no set standard for how the sensor will be incorporated into the bioplastic packaging, Larsen says that decision will be up to the manufacturer.

On top of the practical advantages of SINTEF's product, this approach to plastic considerably reduces the material's carbon footprint. Now, the company has partnered with other collaborators, such as the Portugese-based Logoplaste and Greek company Argo, to develop the plastic into practical goods such as bottles and pots specifically designed to hold seafood.

Soon, everything from your bottled beverages to the the wrap around your deli meat could utilize this new, revolutionary technology—giving the planet and your grocery bill a little needed relief.