Packaging Food Covid

Human race is experiencing a very tough time fighting an invisible enemy; the novel Covid-19 corona virus. Personal hygiene and physical distancing are the only ways to avoid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Corona Virus has great impact on food and beverage packaging industry.

In this era, demand of packaged food will increase when compared with the loose stuff. Packaged food needs to maintain the food hygiene and consumer’s trust to substantiate that the food material has not come in contact with any Covid-19 positive person.

Food packaging as a vital part of the subject of food technology is involved with protection and preservation of all types of foods. Due to economical abundance, petrochemical plastics have been largely used as packaging material due to their desirable properties of good barrier properties towards O2, aroma compounds, tensile strength and tear strength. Meanwhile, they have many disadvantages like very low water vapour transmission rate and the major disadvantage is that they are non-biodegradable and result in environmental pollution. Keeping in view the non-renewable nature and waste disposal problem of petroleum, newer concept of use of bio-plastics came into existence. Bio-plastics of renewable origin are compostable or degradable by the enzymatic action of micro-organisms. Generally biodegradable polymers get hydrolyzed into CO2, CH4, inorganic compounds or biomass. The use of bio-origin materials obtained through microbial fermentations, starch and cellulose has led to their tremendous innovative uses in food packaging in the last few years. Bio-degradable packaging is the need of present time.


COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered corona virus, originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and it has already claimed more than 45,000 deaths worldwide. The virus has spread in many parts of the world, including India, where total cases count nears about 1,39,928 and death toll up to 4,039 with the increment @ 7,111 patients daily as on May 25, 2020. COVID-19 has affected the living culture of human being as well as many industrial fields too. It has direct impact on the economy and the packaging sector.

Food packaging is necessary to provide protection, tampering resistance, and special physical, chemical, or biological needs. It bears a nutrition facts label and other information about food being offered for sale. A decade back, people in small towns and rural places used to buy most of the staple items such as salt, sugar, oil or atta packed in loose polybags. There were issues of hygiene, spoilage and wastage due to lower shelf- life of loose items. Due to packaging needs, rural and small towns have started getting packed, branded stuff of higher quality. In the immediate future, packaging technology will be so flexible that people will buy packed rice and wheat, which will be much healthier, compared to loose packaging. However, Covid-19 has raised concern over the health and safety of what we are consuming and fuelled the demand of single-use plastic.

In past few months, a trend of removing unnecessary packaging, particularly in fresh produce, has started. But as people are becoming more aware of corona virus being transmitted through surfaces, they will hesitate to pick any food without proper packaging. They will instead ask this question to themselves before choosing, who else has touched unpacked food item? The fact is that plastic has helped to fight this battle with its use, especially in healthcare and gone onto save people’s lives, should be appreciated. Also, with extra attention being given to hygiene issues, disposable plastic cutlery seems to be back in favor. But the single time use of plastic will impose the excess environmental pollution and thus, creating the need for more sustainable solutions that includes environment-friendly packaging. However, current situation demands to temporarily shift towards plastic packaging, as it can help maintain sanitization of products during supply chain from manufacturers to consumers. Plastic packaging will help to contain the products inside the packaging without any un-necessary human touch ensuring higher safety levels. Nevertheless, non recyclable plastic packaging must be replaced with biodegradable bio-plastic packaging in order to ensure environmental well -being.

Biodegradable materials are materials that are readily decomposed by the action of microorganisms. Biodegradable packaging differs from conventional non-degradable packaging in terms of raw materials, production technology, applications, and composting. Biodegradable materials such as bio-plastic and paper are widely used in packaging applications because of their sustainable nature, material properties, and appearance.


Biopolymers are polymers produced from renewable sources such as plant raw materials. Polymers from renewable resources are different from natural polymers because their synthesis is induced intentionally. Conventional polymers are not biodegradable because of long chains of molecules that are too big, and too well connected with each other enabling non- separation  either  by the microorganisms or breaking down. Unlike conventional polymers, polymers made from natural plant materials from wheat, potato or corn starches have molecules that are easily degraded by microorganisms. Biopolymers are classified into four categories i.e. Polysaccharides, Starch, Cellulose, Polylactic Acid.

There are various companies, which are already using biodegradable packaging and compostable disposals for their food products. World Centric’s US is one of them, who made line of compostable cutlery and packaging that includes an extensive list of biodegradable bags, dishware, and cutlery for household or corporate use. These certified-compostable disposables are made out of perennial plant fibers with long roots that help store carbon underground. Similarly, Papelyco makes Plantable paper plates. If you use their plates, and place it in the ground, then a plant will literally grow out of it. They even include important minerals in the plate to provide your new seedling with the nutrients it needs to grow. EcoWare, a New Zealand company, is a carbon neutral company, offsetting all of its energy output by investing in clean technology. Aside from their biodegradable dishware, they also sell bioplastic packaging that has an 80 percent lower carbon footprint than regular plastic. Tipa produces a line of biodegradable flexible plastics like Ziplock bags, garbage bags, etc. This type of plastic is heavily used by consumers, and can be a game-changing technology moving forward into a more sustainable future.

Disadvantages of Bio-plastics

Besides the uneconomic feasibility of bio-plastics in contrast to traditional packaging, there are certain other disadvantages that limit their use in the present time. The use of land for the production of bio-plastics is a major hurdle in the success of bio-plastic functionality. Properties of certain bio-plastics like thermal instability, difficult heat seal ability, brittleness, low melt strength, high water vapour and oxygen permeability of PLA limit their use as films in food packaging applications. Other starch- and cellulose-based packaging materials due to their hydrophilic nature possess low water vapour barrier, which is responsible for poor process ability, brittleness, and vulnerability to degradation, limited long-term stability and poor mechanical properties. In case of PHA/PHB stiffness, brittleness (due to high glass transition and melting temperatures), thermal instability and poor impact resistance also restrict their applications in food packaging. The above mentioned drawbacks have opened gateway of research for improving the functionality of bio-plastics.

Many different methods have been employed to overcome above mentioned disadvantages of bio-plastics especially for improving gas and water barrier properties. Some of the strategies are coating, blending, addition of nanoparticles, addition of cellulose, chemical/physical modification, etc.

Biobased Plastics


The rising demand for sustainable packaging materials among consumers will drive the growth prospects for the global biodegradable bio-plastic packaging materials market until the end of 2021. The market is witnessing a high rate of adoption of biodegradable or ecofriendly materials by retailers and intermediaries for packaging purposes because of various initiatives taken by governments of many countries to promote the use of sustainable packaging materials. Also, factors such as the growing consumer awareness, change in consumer attitudes, rising preference towards the environment-friendly packaging materials in the food and beverages packaging sector, are increasing demand for these packaging materials from retail outlets, will also fuel the market’s growth. Biodegradable packaging has a bright future in the food industry. A number of factors including policy and legislative changes, as well as world demand for food and energy resources, will undoubtedly influence the development of biodegradable packaging. There is no doubt that the production of and demand for this packaging will be more and increase partly because of improved properties of bio-degradable packaging and partly due to the decrease of its price, which is now unacceptable in relation to the price of other conventional packaging materials.

Varsha Kanojia

Punjab Horticulture Postharvest Technology Centre, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

V. C. Mahajan

Punjab Horticulture Postharvest Technology Centre, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

Swati Kapoor

Punjab Horticulture Postharvest Technology Centre, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.


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