Using Banana Peel Films as an Eco-Friendly Answer to Plastic Pollution

unripe bananas on tree

(credit: Unsplash)

by | Feb 23, 2024

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In a climate dominated by the pervasive use of plastics, the environmental footprint of these materials has become a growing concern, and with the breakdown of plastics into micro and nano-particles creating unprecedented challenges for ecosystems worldwide, the quest for sustainable alternatives has intensified.

Enter the innovative realm of banana-based biodegradable films — a promising solution poised to redefine packaging practices with its eco-friendly credentials, a study published in the journal Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy finds.

The Environmental Quandary of Plastic Pollution

The versatility and convenience of plastics have cemented their role in various industries, from packaging to construction. However, the dark side of this ubiquity emerges in its aftermath — the degradation of plastic into micro and nano-particles. These minuscule pollutants pervade ecosystems, from the depths of the oceans to the soil under our feet, posing significant risks to wildlife and human health alike.

The ingestion of these particles by marine life, their infiltration into the food chain, and their presence in human tissues highlight a cycle of pollution. With conventional plastics taking more than 700 years to decompose, the environmental and health implications of this persistent issue are far-reaching, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable alternatives.

The Potential of Banana Peel Fiber in Eco-friendly Packaging

Amid the search for viable solutions, banana peel fiber emerges as a material with the potential to revolutionize the packaging industry.

This renewable resource, derived from one of the most widely cultivated fruits globally, offers a sustainable and efficient way to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. The extraction of lignocellulosic fiber from banana peels for the development of biodegradable films represents a significant stride toward minimizing the environmental impact of packaging materials. These banana-based films, characterized by their strength, transparency, and, crucially, their biodegradability, present an attractive alternative to traditional plastics.

“Many of us consume at least one banana a day,” the study’s lead author and South Dakota State Univesity associate professor Srinivas Janaswamy said in a publication by the school. “After enjoying the delicious fruit, we discard the peel. What if we could find a use for the peel that helps eliminate plastic waste?”

This method starts by dissolving banana peel fiber in zinc chloride, then uses calcium ions to create films with remarkable features, like moisture resistance and durability. This innovation holds great potential for businesses, especially in the packaging sector. By switching to banana-derived biodegradable films, companies can greatly lower their impact on the environment. This aligns with the increasing customer preference for eco-friendly options and helps tackle the issue of plastic waste.

The Business Implications

The shift towards banana-based biodegradable films offers businesses a unique opportunity to lead in sustainability and innovation.

As the global community becomes increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of plastic pollution, companies integrating eco-friendly packaging solutions stand to gain a competitive edge. The transition to banana peel films not only addresses the pressing issue of nano-particle pollution but also taps into the growing trend of circular economy practices. By utilizing agricultural byproducts, such as banana peels, industries can minimize waste and create value from what would otherwise be discarded.

This transformation in packaging practices is more than an environmental imperative; it’s a business strategy aligned with future growth and sustainability goals. The adoption of banana-based biodegradable films exemplifies the innovative approaches necessary to overcome the challenges of plastic pollution. It heralds a new era in packaging, where environmental stewardship and business objectives converge, paving the way for cleaner, greener uses.

This article was featured on the Sustainability Unveiled Podcast

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