The petroleum-based plastic film typically used in food packaging is difficult to clean up and recycle, and it remains in landfills for many years after disposal. Led by Paulius Pavelas Danilovas, scientists from Lithuania's Kaunas University of Technology (KUT) have developed a new food wrap that's not only biodegradable, but that should also keep food fresh for longer than conventional plastic.

Made mainly from a plant-derived cellulose composite, the new material also contains clove essential oil along with ionic silver nanoparticles.

The former provides it with anti-oxidizing qualities by binding free radicals, while the latter adds an antimicrobial effect by killing microorganisms. Surprisingly, it was found that the addition of the silver also makes the plastic more elastic and thus stronger.

PhD student Vesta Navikaitė-Snipaitienė (left) and Paulius Pavelas Danilovas examine the material

According to the researchers, the material should break down completely after being discarded, within no more than two years. The university is now working on commercializing the technology.

While KUT is using clove oil and silver to keep food fresh, other institutes developing biodegradable food wrap have had success using grapefruit seed extract, oregano essential oil and milk protein.

View gallery - 2 images