Are the cutlery still edible? Check out these eco-friendly tech that “kills” packaging

What makes "I'm so hungry I want to eat my plate" no longer a metaphor? What makes "Today I have a CD" the invincible player in the world? And what makes tableware out of the fate of disposable?

You've probably never thought about treating food packaging this way: eat it, digest it.

Speaking of which, you may think of the crispy cones of ice cream and the "glutinous rice paper" of white rabbit toffee. Yes, they do count as edible packaging. In addition to them, there are many forms of edible packaging.

There are too many ways to get the packaging into the stomach

Starch, protein, plant fibers, natural organisms, can all be used to produce edible packaging.

Japan's Maruben Confectionary Co., Ltd. originally produced ice cream cones. Since about 2010, they have deepened the cone technology and made edible plates with four flavors of shrimp, onion, purple potato and corn using potato starch as raw materials. "E-TRAY".

▲ Edible dining plate. Image from: Marubishi Seika

"E-TRAY" can hold food for more than 30 minutes, including curry rice, ramen, shaved ice and even soups.

In August 2017, they released another edible chopstick made of rushes, each pair of chopsticks contains the same amount of dietary fiber as a plate of vegetable and fruit salad.

▲ Edible chopsticks. Image from: Maruben Seika

London sustainable company Notpla uses seaweed and plant extracts as raw materials and uses molecular gastronomy technology to produce edible packaging material "Ooho". Swallowing a small "water polo" is roughly similar to eating a cherry tomato.

Ooho can be used in many settings – water and energy drink packaging at marathon events, ketchup or mayonnaise sachets in restaurants, trial packs for wine merchants and drinkers. At the 2019 London Marathon, more than 30% of runners ate the packaging.

▲ Picture from: ppaper

It has two layers of film. When eating, just tear off the outer layer and put it directly in the mouth. If you don't want to eat it, you can throw it away, because the inner and outer layers of Ooho are biodegradable without special conditions, and they will disappear naturally in four to six weeks.

Notpla co-founder Pierre-Yves Paslier once said:

No matter where it ends up, our packaging has no negative impact. If nature can handle it in the wrong places, it's the ultimate environmental protection.

The Indonesian company Evoware, which also uses seaweed as raw material, has also developed a 100% biodegradable edible packaging, which can be dissolved as long as it is soaked in hot water, suitable for instant noodle seasoning packets and instant coffee packets.

▲ Edible instant noodle seasoning package. Image from: Evoware

Tired of the pulpy smell and soft texture of paper straws? South Korea once launched a "rice straw", which contains 70% rice and 30% tapioca flour, and the whole straw can be eaten into the stomach.

Rice straws last 2 to 3 hours in hot beverages and 10+ hours in cold beverages. If you don't want to eat, the rice straw will automatically decompose within 3 months, and there is no harm to the environment.

Similar environmental protection rice straws have also been launched in Taiwan, my country. An environmental protection rice straw business manager said:

Many straw products that claim to be decomposable actually contain some chemical ingredients, which can only be split but not decomposed. However, after the environmental protection rice straw is used, it turns into rice water, which is really 100% decomposed.

When we were young, we all ate white rabbit toffee and "glutinous rice paper" wrapped in sugar. Although it is called wafer paper, its ingredients contain starch, gelatin and a small amount of lecithin. It is also an edible material, which also appears in nougat and candied haws.

In addition to "glutinous rice paper", there are many kinds of edible films. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses casein in milk as raw material, and adds citrus polysaccharide gum and glycerin to make a transparent film.

All in all, edible packaging is healthier in terms of raw materials, but the biggest significance is environmental protection.

It does not generate waste after use, which maximizes the utilization of resources and reduces the generation of plastic waste as a substitute, especially those edible tableware that can be degraded without special conditions.

But why hasn't edible packaging been used on a large scale? The first is high cost, which is reflected in a variety of edible packaging.

In 2019, Sakakihara Katsuhiko, executive director of Maruban Seika, revealed that the price of edible tableware is 10 times that of plastic tableware; the cost of Korean rice straws is about 11 won (about 5.83 cents) per piece, while the cost of non-degradable plastic straws Each one costs about 1 cent , and paper straws cost about 3 cents each.

▲ Edible tableware made of candy.

Secondly, the scope of application is relatively limited. Just like the "water polo" Ooho is unlikely to replace the plastic bottles that can be seen everywhere, Fast Company has pointed out the reason why it is not suitable for placing it on the supermarket shelf: it can only hold a small amount of water and is perishable like fruit. , It must be cleaned before eating.

There is also a very practical problem – taste. The edible film made of protein has a very strange taste, and the starchy wrapping paper has no taste and a strong fibrous feeling.

In addition, edible tableware has not obtained the relevant license in my country. At present, edible packaging is more suitable for inner packaging of products, and is also more suitable for local production and short-term activities.

▲ The machine that produces Ooho. Image from: ppaper

Notpla adopts a local production strategy. On the one hand, the raw seaweed is distributed all over the world; on the other hand, they do not need a large factory, a machine is enough to make Ooho near the event or venue, and it is delivered at one time, which greatly reduces carbon emissions. quantity.

It will disappear without a trace if you don't eat it

Edible packaging isn't just about instant fresh food. They can't completely replace plastic, but they actually reflect an environmental protection idea – let the packaging disappear without trace.

After Ooho, Notpla launched "a takeout box that wants to really disappear," even though it's not for eating.

Traditional cardboard takeaway boxes are either water- or oil-resistant by adding synthetic chemicals directly to the pulp, or adding synthetic chemicals to a coating made of PE or PLA, in many cases both. These plastics and synthetic chemicals make it impossible to break down or recycle.

And Notpla exclusively sourced cardboard free of synthetic chemicals and developed a coating that is 100% made from seaweed and plants. Their takeaway boxes are not only oil- and water-repellent from plastic, but can also be used within weeks. Biodegradable like fruit.

▲ The disappearance of the takeaway box. Image from: Notpla

In addition, there are many ways to make packaging "disappear without traces", scattered in all aspects of clothing, food, housing and transportation.

Does it make sense for the milk carton to take years to break down naturally when the milk turns sour after a week?

Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine shook its head. They argue that "the lifespan of the packages can be as short as the food they contain, like symbionts".

As a result, they have developed a number of extremely short-lived packaging. This series is called "This Too Shall Pass (this will also pass)", and the design is inspired by bionics, using nature itself to solve environmental problems.

▲ Olive oil packaging. Image source: trendland

An olive oil wrapper made of caramel and wax coating that can be cracked open like an egg. When it's opened, the wax no longer protects the sugar, and the package melts when it comes in contact with water, disappearing into the world without a sound.

Basmati rice packaging made from beeswax, which can be peeled like a fruit and easily biodegraded.

▲ Basmati rice packaging. Image from: trendland

Raspberry smoothie packs are made with only agar seaweed gel and water, and are used to make beverages that have a short shelf life and require refrigeration.

▲ Raspberry smoothie packaging. Image source: trendland

The Leaf Republic team in Germany has launched a disposable plate made of 100% "leaves" , each at around £8.50.

▲ Picture from: businessinsider

The raw materials of the plate are taken from creeping plants in Asia and South America. The structure consists of three layers. The first and third layers are all leaves, and the second layer is a waterproof tissue made of leaves. They are stitched with fibers from palm leaves and pressed in custom moulds without the addition of any plastics, adhesives or chemicals. The final product is both waterproof and durable, and after 28 days it will decompose on its own, like falling leaves returning to their roots.

In addition to food packaging, there are also apparel brands practicing "from nature, to nature".

Creative clothing giant VOLLEBAK has launched a 100% biodegradable T-shirt with yarns made from eucalyptus pulp, spruce and beech from sustainably managed forests and prints made from algae grown in bioreactors.

▲ Picture from: Yankodesign

Algae cannot survive outside the water, so the print is not "alive" and will fade like a patina. After consumers wear their shirts, they simply bury it in the ground and it will fully biodegrade within 12 weeks, turning it into food for the worms and helping new plants grow.

When traveling, you can use the "dissolvable packaging" suitable for light travel.

Plus , a sustainable wash and care brand, has launched a water-free body wash that comes in a pouch made from wood pulp. The body wash will foam and turn into a liquid body wash when it touches water, and the outer packaging bag will dissolve within 10 seconds.

Compared with traditional bottled shower gel, this shower sheet has no plastic packaging, reduces water by 38%, and reduces carbon emissions by 80% during transportation, solving the water transportation and disposable plastic packaging problems of traditional shower gel.

And Gelo , a company that sells hand sanitizer capsules, their capsules are all wrapped in water-soluble films, and users can add water after purchase to refill them as ordinary hand sanitizers, reducing the consumption of plastic packaging.

Might as well not even have the packaging!

Of course, the most environmentally friendly way is to "reduce". No matter what plastic alternatives are, it is difficult to be completely environmentally friendly. Many brands that have taken a different approach have decided to cut off packaging needs at the source.

British brand LUSH replaces shampoo with shampoo cakes, and changes the body oil into blocks, eliminating the need for bottle containers.

▲ Picture from: LUSH

Cosmetics and skincare company The Body Shop offers a "replenishment service" at its London concept store. Consumers can use stainless steel bottles to "refill" in stores, replacing "refills" with "refill stations".

▲ Picture from: the guardian

WikiFoods' frozen yogurt pearls are wrapped in organic peels and are also considered "unpackaged products" that don't require spoons and bottles, and come with reusable containers or vending machines.

▲ Picture from: packworld

As for the hygiene and safety of unpackaged products, WikiFoods VP Eric Freedman compares it to fruits and vegetables:

You buy apples, grapes, vegetables, take them home and wash them before eating them. Agricultural products are the best analogy for our products, and we ensure that anything we serve to consumers is delicious, rigorously tested and safe.

All of the above edible packaging, dissolvable packaging and no packaging have their own usage scenarios, which are ingenious actions in the era of plastic reduction. It's certainly a good thing to see so many "not plastic" sustainable packaging solutions emerging.

But the volume of sustainable creative packaging may never be compared to plastic packaging. Especially in terms of price competition, virgin plastics have a strong dominant position.

Algae is one of the most abundant sources of biomass on the planet and one of the most affordable materials for the sustainable market, but it may never match current market prices for plastics. And Pierre-Yves Paslier has a more optimistic view:

The market price of plastics is "man-made" and if we want to start making the right choice, we need to compare and really take into account the cost of the entire life cycle.

▲ Picture from: unep

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme , 1 million plastic beverage bottles are purchased every minute globally, and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year. Half of all plastic produced globally is designed to be used only once and then persist ubiquitously in nature for centuries.

Plastic reduction remains an unusually long and arduous endeavor. This means that in all aspects of the production, circulation, use, recycling and disposal of plastic products, someone needs to "go against the current".

The myriad of ideas that make packaging come and go softly is just a small part of it.

Grapes are not the only fruit.

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