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New Shipping Material Can Replace Polystyrene ‘Peanuts’ With Compressed Popcorn


University of Göttingen

In a stroke of scientific genius, a German researcher enjoying a box of popcorn in a dark theater found that the butter-soaked and overpriced concession was exactly the same size and consistency as peanuts. polystyrene packaging.

Considering that the latest polystyrene-based takes centuries to break down into even smaller chunks of harmful microplastic, and requires fossil fuel extraction to make, Alireza Kharazipour thought it was worth experimenting with puffed corn kernels as a replacement for them. .

Polystyrene is one of the most durable synthetic materials that humans have developed. It has allowed packaging to take very precise shapes and provides excellent packaging security for fragile electronic devices on the move, while it costs pennies to manufacture. However, in addition to being among the least biodegradable plastics, many recycling facilities don’t even have the capacity to process it.

Taking the corn waste produced by making corn flakes and then filling it with steam creates what Kharazipour and his team at the University of Göttingen call “granulated popcorn.”

University of Göttingen

“The products are very light because the popcorn granules are filled with air like honeycombs,” says Kharazipour. Fast company. “When grain corn is turned into popcorn, the volume increases by 15% to 20%.”

MORE: 150 brands come together to clean up our paper supply: save the world’s forests and improve recycling

Popcorn packaging can be made from any type of corn and is completely biodegradable. Large pieces can be compressed into shapes to hold different products and can be easily cut into pieces, either for cutting into precise shapes or for shredding at the end of their useful life.

Around 3 million tons of polystyrene (which is a lot considering it’s 95% air) is produced in the US each year, primarily for things like take-out drinks and food containers. The brilliance of Kharazipour’s idea has got you an exclusive license agreement with a European medium-sized grain and cereal company called Nordgetreide to manufacture various popcorn packaging products.

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Stefan Schult, Managing Director of Nordgetreide, says: “Each and every day we pollute our Earth with an ever-increasing amount of plastic waste that will be a burden on our ecosystem for thousands of years. Our popcorn packaging is an excellent sustainable alternative to polystyrene that is derived from petroleum. ” That is hopeful news.

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