Plastic is everywhere, it’s convenience has become so much a part of our lives that we don’t see it or think of the ramifications of its use. Nowhere is this more apparent than when we shop for groceries. Produce, meat and soft drinks all come to us via plastic, much of it cradled on Styrofoam trays and cocooned in plastic wrap. Is it time to consider edible packaging?
There has been a myriad of solutions proposed to solve the problem of plastic pollution, but here’s several that we can sink our teeth into or sip your mojito through.
The most inspiring part of this story is that these edible packaging solutions are coming from sources spread around our blue planet, including the third world. (photo – Loliware)
Edible Packaging Solutions
Evoware is wrapping burgers and noodles in seaweed packaging. The company is based in Indonesia. Seaweed is also used in the Loliware cup that can be eaten after use. Loliware is based in New York where they are also working on an edible seaweed straw. Another edible straw is made of sugar, corn starch and jelly and is said to last for “40 minutes inside a mojito cocktail”
The Mojito straw comes to us from the UK along with the Ooho water capsule, that delivers a serving of water in a thin pouch made from edible brown algae. The Ooho comes from Skipping Rocks Lab in the UK, read more in: Ocean Pollution update. An edible spoon made from millet flour comes from India while from Poland comes Biotrem’s plates made with wheatbran. (photo – Ooho)
You might not want to actually eat all of these products, but that misses the point, if you can eat it so can nature and that means it will return to nature quickly.
What about Styrofoam?
In 2014 over 28,000 tons of Styrofoam was produced, which given that 95% of the product is air, equates to a lot of Styrofoam. Mostly it was turned into single-use cups, containers, food trays and those innocuous little bits called packing peanuts. In fact, a huge amount of Styrofoam becomes packing material either as peanuts or formed blocks.
But there are many issues associated with Styrofoam, starting with the very chemicals that are used in its manufacturing. One of the main components is styrene, known as a possible human carcinogen since 2002. Another ingredient is Benzene also considered a carcinogen and Dioxins that can cause hormonal and immunological problems.
It has environmental issues because Syryrofoam breaks apart easily into smaller and smaller pieces and it floats, so often it ends up in waterways and the ocean. And it is not biodegradable, filling up landfills and taking thousands of years to totally decompose.
Although it can be recycled, often it is not. Ironically, some states like Texas do not accept Styrofoam packing peanuts for recycling because they break easily and pollute the environment, the very reasons that it should be a priority for recycling. Cities around the US like Portland, New York and Washington D.C. have chosen a different approach by banning its use all together. Image Starbuck’s Styrofoam coffee cup being banned in its home town of Seattle.
Ikea Makes a Move to Mushrooms
So, it is very welcome news that Ikea is leading the charge in finding alternatives to Styrofoam packaging. The Swedish company is looking to use biodegradable mycelium “fungi packaging.” In layman’s terms that’s mushroom roots.
Developed by Ecovative, an America company it is a revolutionary, organic product that takes only a short time to grow into a mold that exactly fits the product to be shipped. After it’s use as packaging is no more, it can be tossed into the garden where it will biodegrade within weeks.
Invented in 2006, mushroom packaging is already used successfully by companies like Dell that ships its computers cushioned in mushroom-based products.
10 Eco-Friendly Tips for Avoiding Styrofoam
You may not be aware of all the eco-friendly alternatives to Styrofoam but have no fear, visit Samantha Allen’s website for a list of 10 eco-friendly alternatives to Styrofoam. The list even features edible packing peanuts that are great fun for your pet ermines to play with.
The Bottom Line: Your Choices Matter
You can shape how your food comes to you by making conscious choices as to what you buy. You need not resort to edible packaging, but you can avoid the excessive use of plastic in food packaging. For example, purchasing an orange already peeled and separated into segments will stay fresh in plastic for maybe four days, but the original orange comes naturally packaged in a durable skin that protects its fruit for months. The natural orange peel will biodegrade within months while the plastic packaging holding the segmented orange will effectively last for eternity.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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