Cucumber peels were used by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, to create an environmentally friendly food packaging.
Cucumber peels, according to the researchers, have a higher cellulose content than other peel waste. Therefore the material can be used to make biodegradable food packaging with low oxygen permeability.
“While customers are consciously avoiding single-use plastic, it is still widely used in the food packaging industry. Natural biopolymers are unable to compete in this industry because they lack elongation, resilience, barrier properties, optical properties and in some cases, biological protection, according to Jayeeta Mitra, Assistant Professor at IIT Kharagpur.
“Cucumber is commonly utilized in India in cooked vegetables, pickles, salads, and even raw consumption, also as within the beverage industry, leading to an outsized amount of peel biowaste with a high cellulose content. We used the celluloses, hemicelluloses, and pectin extracted from this processed material to create new bio-materials that can be used as nano-fillers in bio-composites,” she said
“Our study shows that cellulose nanocrystals derived from cucumber peels possess modifiable properties due to the existence of abundant hydroxyl groups, resulting in better biodegradability and biocompatibility,” Mitra said of the research findings.
She went on to explain that due to unique properties like a high surface area to volume ratio, light weight, and excellent mechanical properties, nano cellulose materials have emerged as a solid, sustainable, and cost-effective material for the near future. "By reinforcing such nanocrystals as nano-fillers in bio-composites films, successful food packaging materials with low oxygen permeabilities can be made," she said.