Researchers at Göttingen University have developed a plant-based, environmentally friendly material as an alternative to polystyrene.
While using popcorn as a packaging material might sound like just another corny joke, a team of researchers at the University of Göttingen thinks they may be on to something. For many years, the group has put its energy and expertise into investigating manufacturing processes for products made of popcorn. The products, they say, have the potential to be environmentally friendly alternatives to polystyrene or plastic. The University has now signed a licence agreement with the company Nordgetreide for the commercial use of the process and products for the packaging sector.
The packaging industry is still the biggest purchaser of plastic products, accounting for almost 40 per cent. However, large producers and retail chains have long since begun to rethink their packaging policies and aim for more recycling. The process developed by the research group Chemie und Verfahrenstechnik von Verbundwerkstoffen at the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology at Göttingen University is based on its many years of experience in the field of renewable raw materials and yields three-dimensional moulded forms produced from “granulated” popcorn. The great advantage of this granular material is that it comes from renewable biological sources, is environmentally friendly and sustainable. It is therefore an excellent alternative to the polystyrene products used previously.
“This new process, based on technology developed in the plastic industry, enables the production of a wide range of moulded parts,” explained the head of the research group, Professor Alireza Kharazipour. “This is particularly important when considering packaging because it ensures that products are transported safely which minimises waste. And this has all been achieved using a material that will even be biodegradable afterwards.”
In addition, the new popcorn products have water-repellent properties, which opens up new avenues for future applications.
Stefan Schult, Managing Director of Nordgetreide, which holds an exclusive licence for the process, added: “Each and every day we pollute our Earth with an ever increasing amount of plastic waste that will be a burden on our eco-system for thousands of years. Our popcorn packaging is a great sustainable alternative to polystyrene which is derived from petroleum. The plant-based packaging is made from the inedible by-products of Cornflakes production and can actually be composted after use without any residue.”
The licence agreement between the University and Nordgetreide was brokered by MBM ScienceBridge GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Göttingen Public Law Foundation.