VALENCIA, SPAIN — A study coordinated by the Research Association of Plastics and Related Materials (AIMPLAS) has proved the hypothesis that bakery waste is a suitable raw material for producing compostable plastic usable for packaging material. The study was conducted in partnership with the Technological Center of Cereals, Palencia, Spain, the Institute of Agriculture, Potsdam, Germany, and the Biocomposites Center of the University of Bangor, Bangor, Wales.
Scientists involved in the project were able to create poly-lactic acid (PLA) from bakery scraps such as bread crusts and sponge cake trimmings via a low-energy process that uses water-based enzymes on a large pilot-plant scale. The study showed that this material had the same performance as PLA packaging produced by other means while helping to address the problem of food waste disposal.
The film created was successfully tested with products such as bread, biscuits and shortbreads. The rancidity of products using PLA film from this method was lower than products tested using other available commercial packaging material, which has implications on both product shelf life and the need for food additives.
Using the methods developed in the BREAD4PLA study, 0.35 kg lactic acid can be generated for every kg of bread. Depending on the scale, one kg of bread can be converted to up to 0.25 kg of PLA usable for trays, films and other packaging material. Data provided by large bakeries in Spain and the U.K. showed that 25% of their waste material was suitable for PLA production. It was estimated that a single company could produce 680 tons of PLA a year, replacing the equivalent amount of conventional plastics at a competitive cost. In addition, this PLA is a way to add value to scrap material that would otherwise be discarded or used as animal feed.
The BREAD4PLA study already was awarded one of the two Green Awards given by the European Commission in the environmental category, and was selected as one of the 15 best European Union LIFE projects of the last 25 years.
Those involved with the study hope to help reduce the 3.5 million tons of starch waste produced yearly in Europe, and to promote the use of higher performing and more environmentally-sustainable alternatives to fossil-based packaging. Click here for a more in-depth summary of BREAD4PLA findings.Additional information about BREAD4PLA can be found at www.bread4pla-life.eu/index.php.