Biodegradable Active Packaging with Controlled Release: Principles, Progress, and Prospects

Jessica R. Westlake, Yunhong Jiang, Martine W. Tran, Ming Xie, Andrew D. Burrows, Xinyu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)
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Climate change is accelerated by increasing food waste; more importantly, this pressing challenge is compounded by the environmentally damaging effects of conventional plastics used in food packaging. We have critically reviewed active release packaging as an innovative solution to address these concerning effects. Particular attention is paid to controlled release, encapsulation methods, and natural active agents. Other aspects of active packaging development such as stringent safety legislations are also discussed, alongside highlighting developmental hurdles. Certain technologies are underscored as revolutionary for the field of active packaging: in particular, stimuli-responsive materials, reliable controlled-release mechanisms, and the synergy of active packaging and intelligent packaging. Encapsulation is described as an important method of achieving controlled release. The potential of electrospun biopolymeric fibers to encapsulate natural antimicrobial or antioxidant molecules is also noted. Importantly, the review discusses the incorporation of nanomaterials and subsequent increased commercialization success due to the modulation of Bioplastic properties. In order to outcompete inexpensive petroleum-based plastics, these novel packaging materials must have good mechanical properties, good barrier properties, well-defined controlled release studies, and good biodegradation rates. Overall, it is evident that biopolymeric active-release packaging incorporating natural active compounds will serve as a high-potential, sustainable replacement for ubiquitous petroleum-based plastics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1183
JournalACS Food Science and Technology
Issue number8
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Currently, the large amount of research on this topic is not reflected in the small number of commercialized systems. The project “YPACK” recently completed a three-year funding scheme from the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Under this project, many biodegradable active packaging materials were reported. The outcome of the scheme was the development of a biodegradable PHBV film. However, EU regulatory concerns prevented the development of the active film to commercialization in 2020.

Funding Information:
J.R.W. would like to thank the EPSRC for a PhD studentship. M.X. and X.Z. acknowledge the funding support by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (22008162), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2021M702016), and City-school Integration Development Strategy Project in 2021 (JNSX2021048). M.X. and Y.J. also thank financial support from the Royal Society (IEC\NSFC\211021) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (R21-4839757049).


  • Active packaging
  • Biodegradable
  • Controlled release
  • Encapsulation
  • Food
  • Natural
  • Plastics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)


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