Friday, December 2, 2016

Renewable plastic made from Mother Nature

Renewable plastic made from Mother Nature
By Brenda Hernandez

Plastic Pollution
Currently, the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic every year…that is enough to circle the earth four times. Keep in mind that the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles- yikes! Plastic constitutes approximately 90% off all the trash floating on the ocean’s surface, which can kill marine mammals. Frequently found on the ocean are plastic water bottles, possibly because Americans dispose of 35 billion plastic water bottles yearly. Half of the plastic used, only gets used once, and only 5% of the plastic that gets thrown away is recovered. The main way of recovering plastic is recycling. 

So why recycle?
Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. It also prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials and conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals. Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change and helps sustain the environment for future generations, all while saving energy.

In 2014, California became the first state to ban the sale of plastic single-use bags. San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in California to ban single-use plastic bags, in 2007. Last year, Los Angeles, the largest city in California and second largest in the United States, banned single-use plastic bags and placed a 10-cent charge on paper bags. When it comes to shopping bags and water bottles, it is advised to reuse. Although it may be easier to recycle and reuse plastic shopping bags and water bottles, it is harder to reuse and recycle food packaging. The plastic used for food packaging has several purposes. Most importantly, it protects food products from distribution damage, contains the food, and provides consumers with ingredient and nutrition information.
Really, the overall goal of food packaging is to contain food in a cost-effective way that satisfies industry requirements and consumer desires, maintains food safety, and minimizes environmental impact. So what are some innovative ways to do all of the above? Renewable plastic!

So what is renewable plastic?!
A novel way to make plastic from carbon dioxide and inedible plant material, such as agricultural waste and grasses has been discovered. Researchers say the new technology could provide a low-carbon alternative to plastic bottles and other items currently made from petroleum. The current goal is to replace petroleum-derived products with plastic made from CO2. Scientists from Stanford believe that by changing the formula for plastic by using Earth-friendly materials to create plastic, the goal will be feasible. Many plastic products today are made from a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also known as polyester. PET is made from two components, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, which are derived from refined petroleum and natural gas. Manufacturing PET produces significant amounts of CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. A promising alternative to PET called polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF). PEF is made from ethylene glycol and a compound called 2-5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). PEF is an attractive replacement for PET because FDCA can be sourced from biomass instead of petroleum. Despite the many desirable attributes of PEF, the plastics industry has yet to find a low-cost way to manufacture it at scale. One approach is to convert fructose into FDCA from corn syrup. A better alternative is to make FDCA from inedible biomass, like grasses or waste material left over after harvest, such as furfural, a compound made from agricultural waste. However, making FDCA from furfural and CO2 typically requires hazardous chemicals (carbonate) that are expensive and energy-intensive to make. By combining carbonate with CO2 and furoic acid, a molten salt is formed which becomes the starting material for FDCA. The next step, transforming FDCA into PEF plastic, is a straightforward process that has been worked out by other researchers.
Chemistry can unlock the promise of PEF that has yet to be realized. This is just the first step. Some work still needs to be done to see if it is viable at scale and to quantify the carbon footprint. But as of now PEF has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions as it is made entirely from vegetable raw materials and CO2. Not only is PEF considered to be the packaging material of the future, particularly for food and beverages, but PEF can also be recycled or converted back to atmospheric CO2 by incineration. Eventually, that CO2 will be taken up by grass, weeds and other renewable plants, which can then be used to make more PEF. Lastly, PEF promises a greater level of impermeability to carbon dioxide and oxygen, thus ensuring a longer shelf life of packaged products. Overall, by providing a low-carbon and petroleum alternative to plastic packaging, PEF is looking like a promising replacement for polyethylene terephthalate due to the potential of reducing greenhouse emissions by a drastic measure. PEF will proved package modernization for consumer convenience, along with a makeover healthy to the environment- a double win!

Dianne Depra. Researchers Develop Renewable Plastic From Carbon Dioxide And Plants. 2016. Available from:

Clare Goldsberry. 2015. Innovations and Trends in Plastic Food Packaging. Available from:

Stanford University. Science Daily. Renewable plastic made from carbon dioxide and plants. 2016. Available from:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rapid Pulse of Pulses

The Rapid Pulse of Pulses
by Avinash Shrikantia

2016 has been quite the year for pulses in the food and dietary supplement industry. The UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse and since then, the industry has gone nuts (1). Companies and startups have innovated pulses into snacks, chips, cereals, pastas, and many other forms of common foods (Banza Pasta, Maya Kaimal Chickpea Chips, My Vega Pea Protein, Brami Snacking Beans, and Tolerant Foods Legume Pastas). At 2016 IFT, “Made with Pulses”, a new logo developed by the Global Pulse Confederation, was launched to help food and beverage manufactures increase consumer awareness and the use of various pulses given the increase in our diet. Some companies are already on board to use the logo on their brands, few of which are expected to hit the shelves at the end of 2016 (2).
 Pulses are classified under legumes and members of the Leguminosae family as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas and are known to be rich in amino acids along with having a high protein content (3). Certain pulses when mixed and eaten with grains such as rice are considered a complete protein. These ingredients have been used for many years through many cultures, namely it’s heavy use in Indian cuisine for thousands of years as a source of meatless protein. The term “pulse” includes all legumes (mainly soybeans, peanuts, and green beans and peas) except those that are used for oil extraction and green beans for consumption. The Food and Agriculture Organization division of the United Nations classifies 11 pulses as “primary” with the most common ones seen on US grocery shelves as kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, dry peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils (4).
Some common pulse products seen on the markets, aside from the dried beans themselves and dried pea snack are powdered pea-protein to replace whey and snacking products, mainly in the form of chips. Pea-protein has gained considerable attention and growth in recent years, and a 2016 market analysis report by Research and Markets reported that North America is the largest market accounting for 35% of global consumption, followed by Europe at 33% (5). Fresh peas and legumes themselves are consumed heavily in Asia, but the supplemental protein segment of this market is still growing. From a global standpoint, the forecasted compounded average growth rate is 8.83% from the end of 2016 to 2020 if others markets continue to grow and companies innovate further to meet the needs of different markets (6). Driving innovation in this category are mainly start-ups that are focusing on the individual pulse ingredient as the trend for animal-free products grows into different categories of food. Large companies, like Morning Star, known for their veggie patties and other “hamburger-like” food products, are also using a variety of pulses in their formulas and are even making pulses the main ingredient in some products. According to a survey by ingredient company, Ingredion, 34% increase of American household purchases related to pulse ingredients was in conjunction with a 74% increase in new pulse product launches from 2010 to 2014, and the number of new products keeps growing (7).
Growth in this category can also be attributed to the increasing social awareness of healthy living. With an increase in healthy eating trends, convenience is vital given the perception of difficulty and expense associated with eating well, the FAO declaring 2016 as the year of pulses to drive innovation helps increase consumer awareness. Consumers need to be eased into eating well into order to sustain the habit of eating well. By introducing pulse products through familiar means, allows for easier consumer acceptance in the long term. Innovative examples of the brands that have capitalized on this are: Hippeas and their organic chickpea puffs, Brami’s lupine bean snacks, Other Bean hummus, Beanitos’s variety of different bean chips, and Banza, whose line of chickpea pastas range from penne to spaghetti. There are many more brands that are making cereals, snack bars, gluten/bread replacement products, and many sports performance supplement brands developing better vegetarian based protein than the large amounts of pea protein in the market (7).
As appetites change and food trends come and go one thing that remains certain for the next few years is the need for convenient and healthy food. A relativity new need that’s gained a lot of investors and traction in 2016 was the use of pulses in food products for added nutritional and health benefits. Another need is using pulses in animal-free products that try to mimic properties of meat products, like vegetarian burgers, and chicken alternatives as well as its use in the sports nutrition industry an alternative to whey protein. As stated by the UN General Assembly, 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse and the industry reacted with a plethora of products. However, since there are a variety of pulses, it’s safe to assume that many more companies innovating on this front will release products incorporating them. As we close out this year, the industry looks to 2017 to see how this trend will take shape into the following year and what new pulse ingredients will be used as innovation in this category grows.