Lovely, tasty, nutritious, disappearing packaging

by Alex Benady

We may make our living from packaging. Packaging may enable our clients to make their living. The trouble is that within seconds of being opened or the product being consumed, packaging has no further useful purpose. It becomes surplus or waste.

And what a waste. According to HMG, in 2011 the UK produced nearly 11 million tonnes of packaging waste –just under a tenth of the UK’s total waste.  Although around sixty percent of this waste is recycled, that still leaves 4.5 million tonnes of packaging rubbish to be sorted, put out, collected and then transported to landfill, every year.

Just by way of comparison, that is almost exactly the same mount of earth that was removed from the 42 kilometres of tunnel dug for Cross Rail. But packaging is far les dense than earth so it  would fill a much longer tunnel

Wouldn’t it be so much better for everyone if somehow a large proportion of it just, well, disappeared?

Earlier this year we blogged about the work of Aaron Mickelson from the Pratt Institute New York who has found ways to make packaging do just that. He has created packaging that is part of the product and is used up as the product is used up.

Now we can report on two more developments in socially responsible, environmentally friendly packaging that just vanishes.

US company Monosol which makes soluble casings for dishwasher tablets and detergents, has been developing edible casings for foodstuffs that are not simply biodegradeable, they dissolve on use. What’s more they add flavour and even nutrition to the foods they wrap. They use a form of edible plastic that is strong when dry but on contact with water, the molecules loosen and they become soluble –and edible.

These edible casings lend themselves to use on single-serve dink mixes and individually wrapped food like oats, or packets of spices and sauce portions.

Meanwhile US inventor Dr David Edwards has been working on edible packaging. (See main picture). His product called WikiCells is designed to imitate the skins of fruits and vegetables in nature with a protective layer of skin that you can eat.

The coatings are created using an edible plastic, which combines algae and calcium. This is mixed with food particles, such as cocoa or fruit, so that the packaging tastes like what is inside. So unlike Monosols edible skins, these may even be nutritious.

The WikiCells technology was named on of the 32 innovations that will change tomorrow by The New York Times  Magazine. Like Monosol, WikiCells says it is in development talks with multinationals. If however tomorrow is too far away, you can try it out today at WikicCells experimental ice cream parlour in Paris.

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