In the fight against climate change, scientists have discovered that grass and maize could be used to make food packaging in supermarkets.
Single-use plastic is well on its way to being just as unfashionable as smoking. While individuals continue to make attempts to reduce their use of plastic packaging, we’ve also seen organisations take steps to be more eco-friendly. And, let’s be honest, these changes have to start at the top in order to make a real difference.
Earlier this month, Waitrose reported that it will roll out plastic-free refilling stations, following the success of a trial in one of its stores. The Body Shop also brought back its recycling scheme, much to its customers’ collective joy. And the 5p plastic bag charge has been proven to reduce the number of sales of plastic bags in supermarkets.
Now, new research has found an unexpected food packaging alternative that could help reduce single-use plastic in supermarkets.
Scientists have said that grass, straw and maize stalks could provide alternatives to plastic packaging.
According to a BBC News report, Bangor University researchers have been working with leftover farming materials to create trays for fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs. How do they do it? Plant fibres are mashed up and pressed into shallow trays. And it’s as simple as that, apparently.
The scientists say the research found this could provide an extra source of income for farmers in African countries such as Uganda.
Dr Adam Charlton, a researcher on the project, said: “We spend a lot of time working with agricultural leftovers, things that people don’t do much with. That could be wheat straw or grass from the UK or maize stalks in Uganda.”
He continued: “Even if they’re being used as animal feed, there’s enough surplus to divert some into alternatives like this. This research could add value to materials that farmers currently aren’t using.”
But is grass packaging something that could actually be used in the UK?
Work with grass packaging has already been taking place in Mona, Anglesey, to create the trays. And research by Bangor University has developed egg boxes from grass, which are now being used by the supermarket Waitrose.
“All of the UK supermarket retailers are desperate to solve the problem around single-use plastics,” added Charlton, hinting at the potential to continue trialling grass packaging.
In 2018, 42 UK supermarkets signed up to the UK Plastics Pact – an industry-wide initiative to transform packaging and reduce avoidable plastic waste. However, these retailers have been criticised for not taking strong enough action to tackle the issue at an earlier stage.
Perhaps this will be the next innovative step that they take.