IIT Roorkee develops packaging material from pine needle waste

Pine needles can replace harmful plastics with paper

IIT Roorkee develops packaging material from pine needle waste
Pine needle waste is being used to develop sustainable packaging material. Photo: iStockphoto

Since environmentally friendly customers are avoiding single-use plastic and researchers at IIT Roorkee, have come up with new packaging material – ethylene scavenging functional paper made from pine needle waste. This sustainable packaging can be the future of packaging materials.

Uttarakhand has more than 1.3 million tonnes of net annual pine needle waste yield, and these dry pine needles are the leading cause of forest fires in India. Burning these needles is harmful to the environment and hence requires a lot of attention.

According to the IIT Roorkee researchers, high cellulose content in pine needles makes them a proper sustainable packaging material. Pine needles are the best alternative to paper and can form a good replacement for harmful plastic. Due to its porous design and active ingredient, this paper-based material can absorb ethylene gas.

Environment-friendly packaging approach by IIT Roorkee

Professor Kirthiraj Gaikwad and Avinash Kumar from the department of paper technology, IIT Roorkee, have started a project to find sustainable packaging material. The Department of Science and Technology is backing it.

Pine needles are ideal for making paper since they have a cellulose content of 41%. The ethylene scavenging paper made from the waste of pine needles by Professor Kirtiraj and PhD research scholar Avinash from IIT Roorkee has helped find an environmentally friendly food packaging material substitute.

The paper product can clean out the ethylene gas due to its porous structure and active compound. The longevity of fresh fruits and vegetables will be increased by at least one week thanks to this paper-based packaging, which scavenges ethylene gas. Additionally, fresh produce’s nutritional value will be preserved.

Why do pine needles waste work as a good wood substitute?

Pine needle waste, the best alternative to wood, helps produce paper and helps prevent deforestation. Dr Kirtiraj Gaikwad said that since pine needles contain 41% cellulose, they are best to be transformed into paper. He further stated that environmental pollution has increased due to the use of petroleum-based plastics in the food packaging industry. 

Paper mills manufacture more than 400 million tons of paper annually, contributing to deforestation. Petroleum-based plastics used for food packaging cause chemical leaching into food packets and are not environmentally friendly. 

Pine wood can be a substitute for wood and be used as a raw material for paper making. Present studies show that pine needle waste proves eco-friendly when in contact with the fermentation of lactic acid. More than 50% cellulose in pine needles makes them a good alternative for food packaging. When processed, these pine needle wastes obtain properties of good packaging material.

Paper packaging has gained prominence in the food packaging sector due to its low costs, lightweight, biodegradable, and recycling nature. They are used in food and drink packaging. Pine needles are similar to softwood, and burning these needles is harmful to the environment. Hence, transforming this pine needle waste into eco-friendly food packaging is an ideal choice.

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