Welsh ryegrass offers green optimism for food packaging
Prototype trials are underway for a university and industry-led project to convert Welsh ryegrass into sustainable food packaging.
Using cutting-edge pulp moulding equipment, researchers at Bangor University have begun a process of heating mixtures of ryegrass to press and mould into prototype fruit and vegetable packaging products.
Funding of almost £600,000 from the Welsh Government's Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme is facilitating the Sustainable Products from Ryegrass (STARS) project, a collaborative programme of research between Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities and six industrial partners including Waitrose.
The project is investigating a range of products that can be produced from ryegrass, including easily-recycled, fibre-based packaging for foods and other low carbon commodity materials including biofuels and platform chemicals.
Industry partners including Waitrose and Adare - which will be supplying the fibre-based packaging for store trials - are also working closely with the universities on the project.The expertise and market insight of the industry stakeholders will be key to maximising the potential for the products to be commercialised.
The project is being led by the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University and the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.
Dr Adam Charlton, of Bangor University's Biocomposites Centre, said: "Working on trials to produce prototype packaging marks an exciting halfway phase in the project and in the coming 12 months we'll be focusing on optimising these materials through collaboration with Adare and Waitrose."
Meanwhile Adare's packaging technical manager Derek Davies said: "Adare already has an extensive range of fibre-based trays and punnets marketed under its Fibellus brand and this project will be an opportunity for us to investigate the feasibility of using this alternative Welsh raw material as a source for food and non-food packaging.
"We're keen to develop our range of practical, environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic formats and we're confident that this project could further augment this range of options."