Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Huid

A plastic alternative made from onions


A young designer has developed an onion skin material that could replace single-use plastic and extend the shelf-life of food

Spotted: By now, we are all familiar with the environmental impacts of single-use plastic. Made from fossil fuels, these plastics don’t really break down, but they do break up – into microplastics and chemicals that are harmful to all life. And each year, half of all plastic we produce is used once and thrown away.

Textile designer Renuka Ramanujam has now developed a plastic packaging alternative made from onion skins, after testing an onion-based fabric dye. She has dubbed the new material Huid (Dutch for ‘onion skin’).  

Although the proprietary process has not been fully revealed, it involves boiling ground, waste onion skins, then binding them together with a natural casein-based adhesive. The result is a material that is strong and waterproof. And, onion skin contains anti-bacterial and antioxidant compounds that slow down the oxygenation process that causes food to go off, making the finished product especially useful for food packaging. 

Ramanujam has recently won a Scottish Edge award of £10,000 (around €11,300) and a £5,000 (around €5,600) Young Innovator award to help develop the material. She is also looking for investment to fund a prototype 3D modelling process for the material. 

Ramanujam is not alone in using food waste to develop a circular plastic substitute. Similarly innovative products Springwise has spotted include a helmet made from waste scallop shells, and food packaging made from surplus grain.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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