Citrus fruits have the highest worldwide financial value of all the fruit crops. According to de FAO, around 21% of global citrus production takes place in the Mediterranean region. Spain, Turkey, and Italy are amongst the world’s top ten citrus producing countries.
One of biggest challenges to the trade and consumption of citrus fruits is the fact that they are perishable. A more efficient logistical system and the use of appealing and eco-friendly packaging could increase the domestic consumption of organic citrus fruits in European countries that traditionally import them. This could also provide new and privileged commercial outlets for Mediterranean producer countries.
Quality standards, consumer health and a long shelf-life are important factors affecting the sale of citrus fruits produced in Mediterranean countries for both domestic and international markets.
BIORANGEPACK, a European project selected for funding by PRIMA SECTION 2 – 2019, was born of this context. The project aims to improve the efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of the post-farming processing chain of organic citrus fruit by identifying and addressing unresolved problems in the supply chain.
AIMPLAS is one of the 14 companies and groups taking part in this project and will focus on the development of active coatings made from citrus fruits. These coatings would extend the shelf life of food and could also be applied to individual paper containers and used in conventional active packaging solutions. Both solutions require active compounds, which are extracted from the citrus residue through a fermentative process that produces bioactive compounds. These compounds are then incorporated into biopolymers, to create active packaging solutions.
Polymer-based films are one of the fastest growing areas in the food packaging market. In fact, optimizing the permeability of the packaging is crucial to extending the shelf life of the food and achieving the best engineering solution.
With the aim of implementing this green-smart packaging, AIMPLAS is working on developing an innovative system where low permeability polymeric films are coated with biocidal substances to reduce post-harvest rot. Additionally, a new active bio-coating based on cellulose and micellar containers which can release natural antimicrobial substances would be applied to the orange packaging to reduce rot.
AIMPLAS is also taking care of the development of an active bio-coating, which will be applied to cellulosic substrates using common deposition technologies like flexography or gravure. It could also be sprayed onto sustainable plastic containers. Additionally, AIMPLAS will ensure food safety by verifying that the new packaging complies with the current EC regulation 10/2011 on plastic intended to come into contact with food and EC regulation 450/2009 on active and intelligent material and articles intended to come into contact with food.
All this is done in order to achieve BIORANGEPACK´s goal of minimizing industrial fruit waste that is lost during processing. BIORANGEPACK seeks to recycle most of the citrus pulp that the fruit juice industry produces as a by-product and reuse it as raw material for biodegradable and natural bio-coatings for fruit packaging. The project´s goals fall in line with the principles of the circular economy and organic food standards.