Packaging And Waste - Is Edible Packaging An Answer?

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Packaging And Waste - Is Edible Packaging An Answer?

Packaging And Waste - Is Edible Packaging An Answer?

Nearly anyone who is concerned about the environment knows the problems with packaging, plastic, and enormous amounts of food going to waste on our planet.  Could making use of excess food to create packaging be the solution?  Possibly so, according to an increasing number of researchers and entrepreneurs who believe tomato peels, mushrooms, milk, and other foods could potentially replace packaging materials such as those with coatings or those made of plastic. 
 
Researchers and entrepreneurs are focusing on solutions to three environmental food issues as companies such as Danone (also known as Dannon in the U.S.) and Nestle Waters search for containers that are biodegradable for their products.  Well-known brands are joining the increasing effort to reduce waste, which is known to contribute to the greenhouse gases surrounding the earth, an effort that's the focus of not only many consumers but restaurateurs and governments as well.
 
According to news reports, a material has been developed by a team of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture researchers in Pennsylvania comprised of milk protein that could be used to encase cheese, line pizza boxes, or to create soup by simply dropping packets into hot water.  Ultimately, the department had stockpiles of milk powder on hand, and considering the decline in consumption of milk by the population over the past several years, the agency was searching for how to put this extra supply to good use.  
 
Another example of edible packaging comes from non-profit environmental group Merck Forest and Farmland Center, who over the past two years has shipped its maple syrup, which is sold to support the group, in glass bottles crated in a material molded from mushrooms rather than the foam pellets and containers previously used in shipping which former executive director Tom Ward said just seemed "nonsensical."  Ward went on to say the mushroom material was great for adding to compost for use around rose bushes or other plants.  New York-based Ecovative is the company responsible for the design of the mushroom-based packaging.
 
Could edible packing be a realistic solution to excessive packaging materials, plastic for packaging, and food waste - or even a partial solution?  We'll likely hear more about this innovative approach in the coming months from food manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.
 
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April 1, 2016
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