Packaging plays a very important role in food product. It serves as protection, containment, convenience and also communication.
Packaging protects the product inside against deteriorative effect of environment such as moisture, oxygen and light exposure, physical damage and microbial contamination. Some product type e.g. water, oil, grains, and cooked pasta are impossible to be transported without the means of packaging. For marketing function, packaging can be the simplest communication aid between the product and the consumer.
Materials for packaging are various, from the rigid metal, clear yet brittle glass, to flexible packaging such as plastics. Nowadays, plastic use as packaging material can be found in a wide range of product. The material for plastic traditionally is polymer derived from petroleum monomers.
Since petroleum is a non-renewable resource, scientists and the industry today began to look for more available, abundant, cost-efficient yet renewable resources for packaging. Materials made of renewable sources are called bio-based materials.
Bio-based material can further be defined as materials derived from annually renewable material. Paper that is derived from trees which can be renewed for 25-65 years, are therefore considered as non-renewable.
Recent bio-based materials for food packaging are PLA (polylactic acid) and PHAs (poly hydroxy alkanoates). These polymers are mainly developed from cellulose that have found to be used commercially on a major scale. Other materials based on proteins, starch, polylactate and other renewable sources are remains a great potential for future exploration.