Cool packaging: IIT Kharagpur has a new use for cucumber peels

Cellulose nanomaterial developed from the peels has strength and elongation, could replace single-use plastic, according to researchers

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 17 November 2020

Cucumber peels may soon be seen in a new avatar — eco-friendly packaging of food materials. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, said they have developed cellulose nanocrystals from cucumber peels with high cellulose content that could be used instead of single-use plastic for food packaging material.

The cellulose nanomaterial developed displayed strength, elongation, barrier and optical properties possessed by natural biopolymers. It was developed by Jayeeta Mitra, assistant professor at IIT, Kharagpur and N Sai Prasanna, research scholar at IIT Kharagpur’s from raw cucumber waste, has addressed this challenge.

“Cucumbers generate about 12 per cent residual wastes obtained after processing either the peels or whole slices as waste. We have used the celluloses, hemicellulose, pectin extracted from this processed material for deriving new bio-materials which are useful as nano-fillers in bio-composites,” said Mitra.

She said the cellulose nanocrystals possess modifiable properties, which resulted in better biodegradability and biocompatibility. These nanocellulose materials are strong, renewable and economic material of the near future.

Cucumber peels possessed greater cellulose content, at 18.22 per cent. They are also non-toxic, biodegradable and biocompatible product. They have no adverse effects on health and the environment, and hence, could have a huge market potential by rendering management of organic waste with high cellulose content profitable.

“Apart from the food packaging and beverage industries, researchers are optimistic about its scope in various fields such as paper-making, coating additives, food packaging materials, bio-composites, optically transparent films, etc,” said Sai Prasanna.

The researchers further made a note for packaging industry players in our country for substantial investments to improve packaging material properties for better sustainability, disposal and decomposition issues.

The demand for biodegradable packaging is likely to spur the nanocellulose market in the near future and help build a plastic-free world, according to Mitra.

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