Fruit wastes to biomaterials : Development of biofilms and 3D objects in a circular economy system
Abstract: To address the current plastic pollution problem, the replacement of conventional plastics with bioplastics can be considered. Although the land use of crop cultivation for bioplastics is still negligible, there is an increasing interest in the utilisation of lignocellulosic waste products for the production of bioplastics. A latest trend in researching sources for bioplastic production focuses on the use of fruit and vegetable wastes because of their versatile polysaccharides. Among different fruit wastes, orange waste and apple pomace have been evaluated as raw materials in this thesis.The development of biofilms and 3D objects from the above-mentioned raw materials via the solution casting and compression moulding methods was investigated. Biocomposites are generally made from a bioplastic matrix and reinforcement, or a plastic reinforced with natural fibres. In the present study, pectin was used as a matrix, and cellulosic fibres wereused as reinforcement. Orange waste films had an opaque appearance with a yellowish colour and were very flexible, while the 3D objects had brown colour. The films had mechanical properties comparable with those of commodity plastics, such as 32 to 36 MPa tensile strength. The films were biodegradable under anaerobic conditions, and 3D objects showed good biodegradability in soil. Grafting of orange waste with maleic anhydride was performed in order to improve its properties, e.g. the hydrophilicity of the polysaccharides-based materials. Grafting reduced the density by 40 % and increased the hydrophobicity compared with unmodified orange waste. Further improvements included upgrading the film casting method and incorporating maleic anhydride in the recipe. The lowest amount of necessary maleic anhydride was determined (0.4 %), and the resulting films had a smoother and more uniform surface. The original methods were also applied to apple pomace in order to produce films and 3D objects. Films from apple pomace had an elongation of 55 %, a twofold increase compared to that of orange waste films containing maleic anhydride (28 %). Orange waste and apple pomace were also mixed for 3D object fabrication, achieving the highest strength of 5.8 MPa (ratio of 75 to 25, respectively) a threefold increase compared to that achieved with only orange waste alone (1.8 MPa).The results are promising‚ but further improvements, e.g. in respect to hydrophilicity and upscaling‚ are needed for orange waste and apple pomace to develop into raw materials for next-generation bioplastics.
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