BELANO Medical - The Micro­biotics Company


New Food Packaging made from Mushrooms and Algae

At the BDI, Prof Christine Lang calls for a circular economy
Berlin, 6 November 2020 – In order to protect biolo­gical resources for the long-term, and replace oil-based products with environ­mentally respon­sible alter­na­tives, coope­ration between policy-makers and the business community will have to be inten­sified. Prof Dr. Christine Lang, CSO of BELANO medical AG and former chair­woman of the Federal Government’s Bioeconomy Council, made this statement in an article for the Federation of German Indus­tries (Bundes­verband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI). Using concrete examples, she outlines how society, manufac­turing, and the political community may jointly drive the trans­for­mation towards greater sustainability.

This will include reliance on natural sources such as fungi. These could be used as
alter­na­tives to polysty­renes in the manufac­turing of packaging materials for food, takeaways, or delivery services. “Due to their densely matted cells, mushroom cultures are a strong and compact material which can fill almost any form and grow directly into the required end product”, Prof Lang writes. Containers manufac­tured this way can be steri­lized. And, whereas conven­tional polystyrene is an oil product and non-biode­gradable, the mycelium of a fungus could be used as an input for a new product after use. In addition, these were “truly degradable in the sense of a resource cycle”.

Food packaging could also be made from chitosan, a substance present in insects and crustaceans. Recent research has shown that it can be used to produce biode­gradable multi­layered sheets. “Its antimi­crobial properties and great mecha­nical stability make chitosan suitable for high-quality packaging with a barrier functio­n­ality”, the article states.

Trans­pa­rency for consumers: Showing the real costs for the environment
Nature knew many ways to achieve circu­larity and energy efficiency, Prof Lang writes. But what we needed to drive the  ransfor­mation towards greater sustaina­bility were “political measures and increased trans­pa­rency for consumers to better identify actual sustaina­bility”.In this context, key aspects included “mapping a product’s realisti­cally calcu­lated CO2 footprint” and, by doing so, “demons­trating the true costs for the environment and human society”.

In many indus­tries, there were first signs of this reori­en­tation process. In the automotive industry, e.g., use of carbon parts “is a signi­ficant step towards a resource-efficient, i.e. extremely light-weight automotive chassis”. However, carbon fibers were still made from oil. As soon as possible, they should be manufac­tured using plant remains.

Suitable for this was the biolo­gical material lignin, a cheap and versatile alter­native to carbon which could also be used in compound materials. Lignin confers stability to plants, allowing them to grow higher, is extremely resistant to both tempe­ra­tures and tearing – but to date is merely paper production scrap.

Algae: A possible end to plastic sheets and plastic bottles
Alter­na­tives are also explored for tradi­tional retail. Conven­tional plastic packaging for
vegetables, fruit, and meat as well as dispo­sable plastic to-go cups could soon be a thing of
the past. “Engineers and biolo­gists colla­borate to prepare algae as a source material for food
packaging”, is one example mentioned by Prof Lang. Here, algae are processed into thin foils
which are both robust and odor-neutral as well as taste-neutral, and can be eaten or
composted after use. “This could even spell the end for plastic water bottles – if this
develo­pment is pursued.”

But this could only be achieved if – in addition to consumers and the policy­makers –
manufac­turing did its part. Often, manufac­turing bio-based source materials was still more
capital intensive today than manufac­turing oil-based inputs. In order to develop, in the near
term, processes which were simul­ta­ne­ously resource-friendly and low-cost, we would need
both courage and indus­trial expertise. “Not until manufac­turing, policy­makers, and society
stake­holders take these steps together will environment, economy, and indivi­duals benefit”,
she says in conclusion.

Christine Lang is a Professor of Micro­biology at the Technical University (TU) of Berlin and,
since 2019, a member of BELANO medical AG’s managing board. She is also president of the
Association for General and Applied Micro­biology (VAAM) and co-chairs the task group
Indus­trial Bioeconomy of the trade association “BIO Deutschland”, a part of the BDI. On the
BDI website, several expert articles are available under the heading “Circlenomics” which
present sustainable approaches to manufac­turing and the use of waste as a resource to a
achieve a circular economy.

About BELANO medical AG:
BELANO medical AG is a biotech­nology company which leverages the findings of its research into beneficial micro­or­ga­nisms for pharmaceu­tical and care products. The company develops and brings to market novel approaches to medical skin care, disease prevention, and the support of healing processes. In this way, new thera­peutic options are created for diseases and indica­tions which currently cannot be treated satis­fac­torily. BELANO’s mission is to make its patented agents and products available to everyone. To do so, the company relies on national and inter­na­tional colla­bo­ration with distri­butors and larger partners.

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