Edible packaging made of natural, biodegradable, plant-based materials can be eaten on the go, without a need for waste collection, processing, recycling, or disposal.
KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Edible packaging is made of zero waste packaging materials that can be utilized for food and beverages.
Of the 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year, a mere 14 percent is recycled. Lightweight and floatable, plastic that escapes collection flows into our oceans—nine million tons annually—most of it from developing nations that lack the infrastructure to manage it. The problem is expected to get worse as those nations grow richer and inevitably start consuming more packaged foods, and as many others in an increasingly convenience-obsessed world continue to purchase meal-kit, grocery services and take-out foods, all of which generate considerable packaging waste.
Most recycled plastics get shredded, melted, and reformed into goods like lumber, fleece, or carpeting, but these products all still eventually end-up in landfills. Manufacturers continue to make bottles and shrink-wraps ever thinner, but the fact remains: plastics are made from nonrenewable resources, either oil or natural gas, and most never see a second life.
Designers, engineers, biologists, investors, and recyclers are now striving to develop packaging that aligns with a circular economy. A circular design abstains from the linear “take, make, waste” model and instead employs supply chains that continuously cycle old materials back into high-value products, with an emphasis on long-lasting design, remanufacturing, and reuse. In the circular economy, material goods cycle in two separate loops: one recovers technical nutrients like metals, minerals, and polymers for reuse, and the other returns biological materials like fiber, and wood, to nature through composting programs, or converts them through anaerobic digestion to carbon-neutral energy.
Edible packaging, for example, utilizes renewable and biodegradable materials to provide consumers with an effective alternative to conventional plastic food packaging. Edible packaging made of seaweed and other natural biodegradable materials does not need to be collected, processed, recycled or disposed of; it is simply eaten!
CASE STUDY EXAMPLES
Notpla is edible packaging made from one of nature’s most renewable resources: brown seaweed. This waste-free alternative to plastic bottles and cups is made from a proprietary material that is cheaper than plastic and that which can encapsulate any beverage including water, soft drinks, spirits, condiments and cosmetics. See Notpla’s innovative product line at: http://www.notpla.com/products.
Evoware is a social enterprise with a mission to innovate biodegradable alternatives to singleware-use plastic products using seaweed, while increasing the livelihood of seaweed farmers in Indonesia. Evoware makes a disposable and edible sachet made from seaweed to replace plastic sachet products. This seaweed sheet has the same function as plastic packaging but can be dissolved in warm water. See other examples of Evoware’s products at: https://rethink-plastic.com/
Monosol’s water-soluable films made of PVOH dissolve completely upon contact with water and consumed by bacterial micro-organisms after use. They do not persist in the environment, contaminate the recycling stream, or contribute to micro-plastic pollution. Its unique safety and environmental profile make it an ideal material for helping make everyday products safer, simpler and more sustainable.
See the various ways in which Monosol’s dissolvable packaging can be applied to everyday consumer products at: https://www.monosol.com/
Loliware has engineered a new category of high-performance products designed to disappear using seaweed intelligence: https://www.loliware.com/
In 2012, David Edwards launched WikiCells, an edible packaging for foods and liquids that mimics an eggshell but is made of charged polymers and food particles that can be filled with many things like orange juice, wine, or chocolate. See: http://davidideas.com/details/wikicells