10. Philippines: Converting Food Waste into Biodegradable Packaging Products

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Faculty Mentor/s:
Vinay Mehta, Materials Science and Engineering


Students on the team: 

Cayla Brint ‘24

Estefania Ravelo ‘26

Matt O’Connell ‘26

Max Beutner ‘24

Sophia Mihalek ‘24


Project Description:

Roughly 70 million tons of food is wasted each year in the United States alone. In the Philippines, over 650,000 tons goes unused annually. Food waste primarily consists of post-harvesting agro-sources and the remainder of the food ecosystem. Landfills and composting are currently the two most viable routes for food waste disposal; however, these are not environmentally sustainable. We need alternatives that are not only sustainable but economically smart. One such option is converting food waste into packaging - if successful, this would simultaneously reduce the use of petroleum-derived plastics in packaging. Cassava bags made out of starch and vegetable oils is an example of such an endeavor, and Just Goods Inc. uses square containers made from recycled paper and sugarcane for manufacturing plastic bottle caps. Overall, only 8% virgin plastic (polyethylene) and almost 35% of the plastic derived from plant-based sources are used for these containers besides paper and other ingredients. This project team will explore alternatives using food wastes - starch, oil, coffee, sugar, legumes, etc. - using a processing route such as fermentation, and subsequently produce extrudable and/or moldable grades of biodegradable polymers.


Month/Year Project Began:
January 2023