Research project
36 | monthsBIOPACK

New solutions for sustainable bio-based food packaging

Related toSpoke 02

Principal investigators
Andrea Bassani,Francesco Meneguzzo,Sara Limbo,Luigi De Nardo,Matteo Gherardi

Other partecipantsV. Capozzi, G. Palmieri , S. Romani, U. Tylewicz, R. Laurita
  1. Home

  2. Research projects

  3. New solutions for sustainable bio-based food packaging

Task involved

Task 2.2.1.

Smart and sustainable bio-based active food packaging (e.g., biopolymers from food waste/by- products upcycling, thin films and coatings incorporating bioactive compounds) (in connection with Spokes 3 and 4).

Project deliverables


Development at a pilot scale of at least 2/3 smart and sustainable packaging solutions from upcycling of food waste/by-products (M36)


Testing of safety, efficacy sustainability and dynamic shelf-life of the developed smart and sustainable packaging solutions (M36).

State of the art

Nowadays, smart and sustainable bio-based active food packaging materials represent a potential alternative to conventional plastic materials. Indeed, active packaging can extend the function of protection of foods, allowing a controlled interaction between the material, the food, and the environment if compared to the “no-active” bio-based material. The release of useful substances like antioxidants and antimicrobials or the absorption/removal of undesired gasses like oxygen can prolong the shelf life or improve food safety. Intelligent or smart packaging, like freshness indicators and sensors, monitors directly or indirectly the conditions of packaged foods, supporting the sustainability of the food chain. For instance, the enhancement of specific properties of micro and nanofibers from cellulose and chitosan, obtained by waste and biomass recovery, to immobilize bioactive compounds for active and intelligent packaging can offer greater protection to more sensitive foods, incentivizing a productive upcycling of waste-based food packaging economy.

Operation plan

The planned activities will cover two topics as follows:

1. Identification and production of organic compounds to be used in biobased packaging 

  • Preparation of natural extracts from food by-products and waste, including orange peels, grape skins/pruning, grape pomace, polysaccharide feedstocks, Opuntia ficus-indica fruit peels, and cladodes, citrus, pomegranate, and apple wastes (supplemented with conifer waste), and microalgal biomasses grown on dairy wastewaters (CNR, UNICAT).

  • Mechanical or chemical production of micro/nano-fibrillated cellulose (MFC-NFC) from waste or biomasses (according to Tasks 2.1.1 and 2.1.2) and optimization of chemical-physical and morphological properties (UNIMI).

  • Production of bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) from agri-food waste and functionalization with natural antimicrobial peptides (CNR).

2. Design and formulation of structural matrices for new bio-packagings

  • Encapsulation of natural extracts with maltodextrins or cyclodextrins via spray dryer (UNICAT).

  • Fabrication of novel (edible) coatings and bio-based delivery systems (CNR).

  • Functional characterization of mono and multilayer bio-based structures incorporating active /intelligent bio-substances (characterized in Tasks 2.1.1 and 2.1.2.); preparation of hydro- and cryo-gels by covalent crosslinking of natural antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds (e.g., essential oils, amino acids, diacetyl, lysozyme) (CNR).

  • Fabrication of chitosan-based micro/nanofibers by chemical modification of chitin from insects (Task 2.1.2) (UNIMI).

  • Incorporation of cell-free supernatant and heat lysate from biocontrol lactic acid bacteria (Lactiplantibacillus plantarum) in model edible coatings/packagings (CNR).

  • Incorporation of phosphorescence-based O2 sensor devices in packaging systems (CNR).

Expected results

  • Definition of optimized functional properties for developing smart and sustainable food packaging solutions tailored to quality requirements, different perishability, and short- or long-term shelf life of selected food products.
  • Microstructural and mechanical characterization of developed mono and multi-packaging biostructures. 
  • Development of new technologies for the production/functionalization of active/intelligent micro or nanofibers.
  • Optimization of the shape of the fiber-based material (labels, pads, etc.), implementing scale-up and technology transfer methodologies from laboratory to pilot level.