US biotechnology company Metabolix is working with the US Army to develop biodegradable packaging films from renewable resources primarily for use by the country’s Navy.

It has recently worked with the US Army Natick Soldier Center to develop biodegradable food packaging films with excellent barrier properties using fermented polyhydroxyalkanoate [PHA] – an energy storage material synthesised by natural micro-organisms like bacteria.

The films, being developed principally to help the Navy address how to deal with large volumes of used food packaging at sea, are ideal for marine use because, although stable with hot liquids like tea and coffee, they biodegrade in fresh and marine water. It is hoped the research will also foster development of biodegradable mainstream food packaging.

The project’s eventual aim will be to equip ships with machines that grind down discarded Metabolix-based packaging into fine granules that can be disposed of at sea.