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UGM Students Initiate Environmentally Friendly Food Packaging

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Mediatani – Cheap, not easy to leak, lightweight, and practical to use. These various advantages make food vendors and restaurants use Styrofoam food packaging a lot.

Although already popular in the community, the packaging turns out to contain substances that are harmful to the body. In addition, this styrofoam packaging is not environmentally friendly, and contains benzene and styrene compounds. Both of these substances have side effects that are bad for health.

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This is what motivated a group of UGM students to develop food packaging from seaweed. The packaging from seaweed made by four students is considered environmentally friendly and does not endanger health.

The four students are Ilham Firdausi, a student of the Faculty of Agricultural Technology UGM along with his faculty friends Arif Ramadhan and I Nyoman Anggie Pratishta, and Dimas Wahyu Prasetyo from the Faculty of Biology. The manufacture of food packaging from seaweed was guided by Andika Wicaksono Putro.

They did the development of plastics or polymers (bioplastics) because seaweed contains carrageenan compounds or one of the phycocolloids that have excellent film-forming abilities. These plastics or polymers naturally can be easily degraded either through the use of microorganisms and the weather.

In addition, seaweed in Indonesia is quite abundant, so it has the potential to be used as a safe and environmentally friendly packaging material in the future.

How to Make Food Packaging from Seaweed

The carrageenan compounds contained in seaweed are mixed with water and glycerol to be heated and then added beeswax. After being allowed to dissolve, then filtered and printed into food packaging. Finally, the drying process is carried out before it is ready for use.

Arif Ramadhan said that plastic waste, including Styrofoam, is a major problem in marine pollution. Thus, this seaweed food packaging offers an alternative solution to overcome this.

“In addition, food packaging made from seaweed is safe for food and the environment. The degradation process in nature is easy and can be used as organic fertilizer for plants,” said Arif, quoted from the page, Saturday, August 7, 2021.

Meanwhile, Styrofoam has no economic value after being used and only becomes waste that pollutes the environment because of its very long decomposition time. Because, Styrofoam is included as a type of plastic or polymer.

Therefore, food packaging made from seaweed is considered the right step because it can be used repeatedly.

Know the Contents of Styrofoam and Its Dangers

The use of styrofoam to contain food can harm the health of the body. When viewed from the chemical composition, styrofoam is included in the type of plastic or polymer. Styrofoam also contains monomers, including styrene, benzene and formalin which have a number of negative impacts on body health.

The content of styrene is the cause of a person’s nerve function can be disrupted because this compound can reduce the production of red blood cells. This can lead to fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping. In addition, it can affect the condition of the fetus through the mother’s placenta and potentially contaminate breast milk.

The content of benzene even if it enters the body will be stored in the blood tissue. Because this content is not soluble in water, so it cannot be excreted through urine or feces, and will accumulate in fat in the body. This is what causes cancer.

However, WHO states that if the styrene content does not exceed 5000 ppm that enters the body, it will not pose a health hazard. The Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) also stated that styrofoam is still safe to use for food.

Therefore, avoid using Styrofoam repeatedly. After one use, immediately crush and throw away. The use of Styrofoam is also not recommended for storing fatty, oily foods, and using alcohol.

Try to prevent food from coming into direct contact with Styrofoam by giving rice paper as a base. Avoid pouring hot food into these containers.

The most important thing to do is to minimize the use of Styrofoam when buying food. Because, in addition to endangering health, styrofoam can only be decomposed within a period of 500 years, so that it becomes one of the factors for global warming.

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