At the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, a team of researchers found a way to use discarded cucumber peels. They have created environmentally-friendly packaging material that is biodegradable by using cucumber peels.
Cucumber peels have a higher content of cellulose than other peel waste, according to the team. Cellulose nanocrystals derived from these peels can be used to produce material for food packaging and have low oxygen permeability as well.
Jayeeta Mitra, Assistant Professor at IIT Kharagpur, said that “While consumers are avoiding single-use plastic, it is still present in food packaging products. As they lack important characteristics such as strength, elongation, barrier property, optical property, and even biological safety, natural biopolymers can not find their place in the industry.
Besides, she shared that cucumber is widely used in our country, such as in salads, pickles, cooked vegetables, also in the beverage industry. This contributes to a large amount of biowaste produced from the peel and is rich in cellulose content. She said that cucumbers produce approximately 12 per cent of the residual waste. Their team used the extracted cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin from this processed material to derive new bio-materials that are useful in bio-composites as nano-fillers.
While discussing the research findings, Mitra said that their study shows that cucumber peel-derived cellulose nanocrystals have modifiable properties. It results in better biodegradability and biocompatibility of the packaging material because of the presence of this property.
The Institute’s research scholar, Sai Prasanna, shared that the non-toxic, biodegradable and biocompatible product does not harm health and the environment. It also has a huge market potential because high cellulose is held in the organic waste that is generated.
The researchers are optimistic about its scope in various other related fields, apart from the food packaging and beverage industries, such as papermaking, coating additives, bio-composites, optically transparent films and oil-water emulsion stabilizers.
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