Lithuanian researchers develop plastic-free takeaway box to solve common design issues
30 Aug 2022 --- Lithuanian researchers claim to have developed a takeaway food box that solves all common leakage, cooling and size problems. The team’s new invention is also plastic-free and designed in collaboration with local businesses and consumers.
Headed by scientists from Kaunas University of Technology (KUT), the project is being hailed as a “revolution in the world of takeaway food.” The resulting invention is a cardboard food box covered with Teflon, which the researchers say is an original innovation.
Aelita Zabulionė, a junior researcher at the Food Institute of KUT, tells PackagingInsights:
“It is important to note that the package is not a baking dish, as it is meant for the food that is already cooked but has cooled down during transportation. So, it can be used to warm food until the right temperature.”
“On the package, it is indicated that it can be warmed at 1800 C temperature for 20 minutes. The packaging is made from paper covered with a very thin layer of Teflon coating; that’s why it can be heated.”
“The Teflon coating is taking up less than 10% of the weight of the packaging, which is why the box can still be recycled as paper.”
The start of the project study entailed a three-course dinner attended by a group of 16 people, whose ages ranged from 22 to 60 years. During the dinner, people evaluated the food packaging and shared their insights.
They found that plastic packaging used during the dinner perfectly reflected the “typical shortcomings” of takeaway food boxes. It was hard to adapt the package to a certain size, and the parts of the meal were not separated well enough from each other.
Lastly, it was not clear whether to wash, recycle, or throw it away with household waste.
Zabulionė says the packaging her team created in response to these issues is superior to plastics in several ways. “First, it is very compact and can be adjusted to the size of the meal. This allows for saving the very amount of package – for example, there is no need to put a steak and a side dish into separate boxes; it’s enough to use a separator,” she says.
“Secondly, cardboard can be recycled up to 6-7 times. On the bottom of our package, there is a text indicating that the package needs to be recycled as cardboard. Teflon coating makes the package easy to clean after usage, and it is suitable to recycle afterward.”
“Thirdly, the boxes are created so they can neatly interlock with each other; this saves space while transporting, storing or disposing of the package, and at the same time, reduces the costs of these processes. Finally, the boxes that we have created can be composted.”
Taking the “invention” nationwide
The packaging was created in collaboration with a restaurant and packaging manufacturer.
“One of the possible challenges may be related to the fact that plastic packaging is often chosen due to its extremely low price,” says Zabulionė.
“However, we expect that environmental sustainability and the impact on health (both that of a human and of the planet) will encourage more restaurants to choose environmentally safe packaging instead of plastic.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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