Biodegradable biopolymers for active packaging: demand, development and directions

Jess Westlake, Martine W. Tran, Yunhong Jiang, Xinyu Zhang, Andrew Burrows, Ming Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Citations (SciVal)


The food packaging industry is a major contributor to plastic waste. The end-of-life scenario of fossil-fuel derived plastics often has a detrimental effect on the natural environment, including the formation of microplastic pollution and increased GHG emissions. Therefore, alternative food packaging materials are required to overcome these effects and reduce the unsustainable use of plastics. The sustainability of biopolymers is related to the valorisation of waste, the abundance of the source, and the biodegradability of the material. Conventional fossil-fuel based plastics often have the ideal properties to protect food from environmental conditions which enhance food degradation. Therefore, bioplastics require equal or superior mechanical and barrier properties to outcompete traditional plastics. Here we review the use of biodegradable biopolymers for active food packaging, discussing bioplastics at the forefront of active packaging research. Particular attention is paid to the source of the biopolymer, the film properties, and different scale-up technologies used to produce active packaging materials. The variation in bioplastic properties upon incorporation of active agents is also explored. Moreover, the controversies relating to biodegradable certifications are discussed. This review builds upon current literature by providing a specific overview of biopolymers in the context of their use as active packaging materials. Overall, it is evident that active packaging prospects will rely on; (i) bio-based and biodegradable bioplastics (ii) optimising the properties of bioplastics containing active agents, (iii) adhering to strict safety regulations of food contact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-72
Number of pages23
JournalSustainable Food Technology
Issue number1
Early online date29 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

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

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s).


Dive into the research topics of 'Biodegradable biopolymers for active packaging: demand, development and directions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this