Antibacterial Activity and Absorption of Paper Towels Made From Fruit Peel Extracts

(1) Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Illinois, (2) Waubonsie Valley High School, Aurora, Illinois, (3) Metea Valley High School, Aurora, Illinois, (4) Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
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Barriers to adequate hygiene are important problems throughout the world, as billions of people do not have access to sanitary conditions. In particular, unsatisfactory hand hygiene leads to the spread of bacterial infections from person to person. To address this problem, we developed the PeelTowel, an antibacterial and water-absorbing towel made of a combination of fruit peels and recycled paper waste, which has the potential to make hand-hygiene accessible, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Kiwi, orange, and lime peels were chosen for this purpose because they contain antibacterial factors such as vitamin C and citric acid as well as water-absorbing cellulose. PeelTowels were produced by creating a paste of crushed fruit peels and paper and then drying thin films of this paste on screens. PeelTowels were tested for their ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and absorb water. They were incubated with Escherichia coli, and bacterial survival was measured by counting colonies on agar plates. Similarly, absorption was quantified by exposing PeelTowels to varying amounts of water. The Lime PeelTowel had the highest antimicrobial activity. It eradicated 50-91% of E. coli after exposure for 1 hour and 95-98% after exposure for 18 hours. It also absorbed three times the amount of water as a commercially available paper towel. Our results suggest that Lime PeelTowels have the potential to be an environmentally friendly option for antibacterial and absorptive hand towels.

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