Turning waste into a resource: Study of the effect of containers made of giant reed weeds on the shelf life and quality of tomatoes and strawberries
Giant reed (Arundo donax L.) is currently one of the greatest invasive threats to Mediterranean-type river ecosystems worldwide and can be easily transformed into a cheap and sustainable material that can be used in the manufacturing of containers for the fruit and vegetable industry. Simple trays were prepared using giant reed, and their behavior was evaluated during storage oftomatoes and strawberries. The mechanical properties of the giant reed particleboards were assayed, and it was shown that they are suitable for industrial purposes. The quality of strawberries and tomatoes stored for 7 and 14 days, respectively, in plywood (control) and giant reed containers was comparable, with no significant differences found. The parameters analyzed included weight loss, titratable acidity, total soluble solids, the maturity index, and sensory quality parameters (color, presence of decay, freshness of odor, sourness, sweetness, freshness of flavor and firmness) using a trained panel. After the shelf-life experiments, the properties of containers made with giant reed were assayed, and all of the properties met the requirements established for stacking, compression, static bending and dynamic compression. For instance, all of the containers resisted more than 5000 kg of compressive strain, and the maximum deflection that the containers exhibited was 3.84 mm, which is smaller than the maximum of 6.1 mm allowed.