Chile-based startup Valnux recently developed an alternative to plastic using walnut shells. The material is made by grinding up the shells and putting them through a process used by the plastics industry. The result is a biodegradable thermoplastic with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties (thanks to juglone, a molecule found in walnuts). Engineers Patricia Olave and Natalia Valencia founded Valnux to reduce waste in Chile while finding unique solutions to the global plastic pollution crisis. While the company is starting with creating kitchen utensils such as cutting boards and fruit bowls, it is open to developing walnut-based bioplastic for other products, including food packaging. “We have different industrial possibilities for this material, but for food [applications] it is necessary to keep investigating properties like the permeability of gases or ultraviolet filtering,” Olave told Foodnavigator Latin America. “And to be coherent with the ecological purpose of Valnux, it must come from natural components.” In 2018, 12,000 tons of walnut shells were left in Chile—the second largest global exporter of the nut variety, according to Valnux. The startup can produce more than 30 plastic-free cutting boards from one hectare of walnut waste per harvesting season.   

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