Bananas last 14 days longer, cucumbers six days longer

“Carrot helps cucumber” is the name of a Swiss development to reduce plastic waste from packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables. Rübli is representative of all types of pomace, the residue left after squeezing fruit and vegetables when making juices. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials and Testing (Empa) in Dübendorf near Zurich use this to produce a liquid that is used to spray the natural products to be protected. A dense film is formed that is so thin that it neither changes the visual appearance of cucumbers, bananas and other products nor the haptics, i.e. the feeling you have when you touch them. Nevertheless, the film effectively protects against liquid loss, so that the fruit stays fresh for as long or longer as if it were wrapped in plastic film. The food group Lidl Switzerland awarded the development contract.

Film made from finely ground cellulose

The marc is washed and bleached. Now it resembles pulp from which paper is made. It’s ground into a very fine powder and stirred into a solvent that’s just as non-toxic as the powder—both of which are safe to eat. This mix is ​​sprayed on fruit and vegetables which, without protection, would lose moisture very quickly and would have to be disposed of. It is also possible to immerse the natural products in a bath of the protective mixture. Coated cucumbers, for example, are almost as fresh after six days as they were on the first day, while the unprotected cucumber has turned yellow. Bananas even last 14 days. This means not only less packaging waste, but also less food to throw away.

Enrichment with vitamins is possible

“Our major goal is to replace a lot of petroleum-based packaging with such natural coatings in the future,” says Gustav Nyström, head of Empa’s research department. The potential of the cellulose coating is far from exhausted: it is possible, for example, to add additives such as vitamins or antioxidants that could increase the nutritional value. The protective layer will be tested and further improved over the next two years together with Lidl and a fruit and vegetable supplier. The goal is to offer fruit and vegetables in 150 Lidl branches that are protected with the cellulose film.


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