IIT Roorkee researchers have developed functional paper from pine needle waste, which can lead to sustainable food packaging in the future.
Researchers at IIT Roorkee have developed ethylene scavenging functional paper from pine needle waste, raising the possibility to create sustainable packaging materials in the future, as single-use plastic is mainly being avoided by environmentally conscious consumers.
This research will aid in the efficient valorization of pine needles into novel functional paper and contribute towards sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The net annual pine needle waste yield in the state of Uttarakhand is nearly 1.3 million tonnes. On the forest floor, the deep layer of dry pine needles is the leading cause of forest fires yearly in India. The burning of pine needles results in the formation of volatiles hazardous to the environment.
Therefore, proper usage of pine needles requires a lot of attention. Due to their high cellulosic content, pine needles are ideal for transformation into a sustainable packaging material, which is what the researchers from IIT Roorkee did.
Eco-friendly substitute for food packaging
The ethylene scavenging functional paper from pine needle waste by Professor Kirtiraj K. Gaikwad and PhD research scholar Avinash Kumar at the Department of Paper Technology, IIT Roorkee, has addressed this challenge of finding an environment-friendly substitute for food packaging materials.
This paper-based product has the ability to scavenge ethylene gas due to the porous structure and active compound incorporated in the paper. After harvesting, ethylene gas is generated by fresh produce itself, and ethylene is responsible for the speedy ripening of fruits and vegetables.
By scavenging ethylene gas, this paper-based packaging will extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables for at least an extra one week rather than the regular shelf life. It will also preserve the nutritional quality of fresh produce.
Why are pine needles ideal for this research?
Pine needles contain 41% cellulose, their high cellulosic content; pine needles are ideal for transformation into paper. “We have used the pine needle without removing lignin by sustainable route for paper development,” said Dr. Kirtiraj K Gaikwad.
He further added, “The rise in the use of petroleum-based plastics in food packaging for years has become the source of environmental pollution.”
The results of the research work that was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) grant have recently been published in the Industrial Crops and Products (an International Journal).
It is important to understand that, around the world, mills produce about 400 million tons of paper per year which contributes to deforestation. Pine needle is non-wood and can be a solid substitute for wood, which is the primary raw material for papermaking.