Here at Inhabitat we’ve been hoping for, and advocating, biodegradable packaging for years, but now designer entrepreneurs are thinking even bigger; how about packaging one could actually consume? Turning what was a waste product into something that could actually confer nutrition (and would degrade quickly if uneaten), could make litter a thing of the past. Several companies have been working on edible packaging over the last couple of years, and as the idea moves closer to reality, Time magazine even called it a ‘game changer’ for 2012. Read on for a look at the state of the art in edible packaging!
Litter drives me nuts. It’s hard not to pick it up, especially if I’m on a hike, or walking a beach (litter seems particularly offensive to me in natural areas); but I also find junk food wrappers, chip bags, plastic water bottles and cigarette cartons on the sidewalk outside my house sometimes, which is not only gross, it’s frustrating—no matter how many bits of trash I pick up, there’s always more where those came from.
According to Packaging Digest, two companies are seriously working on packages one can consume – one is Monosol, which is probably closer to market with a product application since they already manufacture water-soluble packaging for detergent and pesticides (and say they are working with dry foods for other applications). The other major player is Wikicell, which is a project of Harvard University’s Weiss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Wikicell‘s solution differs from Monosol’s in that it can hold wet food or beverage items, since it is made from a special ultra thin membrane technology, according to its creator, Professor David Edwards.
The idea is attractive to everyone from food manufacturers to personal consumers, who could have Wikicell Machines in their homes (edible packaging for your homemade Christmas cake anyone?). According to an abstract for a presentation on the idea:
WikiCells consist of a natural food membrane held together by electrostatic forces and containing a liquid, emulsion, foam, or solid food substance possibly within an edible or biodegradable shell. They can be produced by consumers with a WikiCell Machine in a practically inexhaustible variety of membranes and forms and with a wide range of food and drinks. WikiCells use special membrane technology that permits the fabrication of thin delicious membranes with significant water diffusional resistance and adjoined shells that allow for stability of the WikiCells over long periods of time.