DipWrap Aalto University

Plastic-free DipWrap

Bio-based protective film developed for vegetables and fruit

7 January 2022

Plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables has been banned in France since the beginning of the year. Around 30 types of fruits and vegetables will have to be packed without the use of the usual foil and blister solutions in the future. With the ban, the French government is taking on a pioneering role in the EU and wants to save more than a billion plastic packaging a year. Alternatives made of paper and cardboard are already available on the market. An exciting development to protect vegetables comes from Aalto University in Helsinki. Here, students have developed a bio-based protective film for cucumbers.

Agar-agar, carnauba wax and dispersed cellulose nanocrystals

The so-called “DipWrap” comes from Ena Naito, Louise Kallai, Emilia Ikävalko and Sari Kupiainen, who developed the technology in the “Design Meets Biomaterials” course as a completely new way of wrapping cucumbers. The cucumbers are immersed in a bio-based liquid solution, forming a transparent film that dries in a few seconds. The protective layer can be washed off as a whole.

The dip mix consists of the red algae-derived gelling agent agar-agar, a carnauba wax dispersion and dispersed cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). One of the challenges the team faced was not being able to find previous studies on similar solutions.

DipWrap Aalto 2

„We went to the lab every week and tested several materials. We came up with the idea of using agar, because we had used it for cooking. We added also wax to make more waterproof-film and CNC for its antibacterial properties“, says Louise Kallai, a Master student in Chemical Engineering who is spending a year in student exchange at Aalto University.

The team believes that the dipping treatment could also be used for other vegetables and fruits as well. „This is a baby step, but hopefully it’s a beginning of something that could be commercialised and could spark interest in this kind of packaging. It also encourages people to question our daily choices“, says Ena Naito, a master’s student in contemporary design.

The project was a part of CHEMARTS, a collaboration between The School of Chemical Engineering and The School of Arts, Design and Architecture, which aims to inspire students and researchers to create new concepts for bioeconomy by combining design, business thinking and natural materials science.

Instagram-chanel: www.instagram.com/dip.wrap

image: Biobased packaging protects the cucumbers from damage and keeps them fresh longer. (source: Aalto University)

image: Biobased liquid in which the cucumbers are dipped. (source: Aalto University)