Casein-lined edible packaging could cut plastic usage
Good Enough To Eat? This paper cup could be the future of edible packaging. Image by Boumen Japet (via Shutterstock).
Our industry alone has an impeccable recycling rate. In our previous blog post, we stated how the paper industry has a recycling rate of 89.4%. Compare that with plastic: over 45% of plastic bottles are recycled. How much plastic do we throw out from food packaging alone (take ready meals for example)? Over at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Laetitia Bonnaillie is leading a team of scientists to develop the next best thing to plastic film: edible packaging.
Imagine you’re warming up a cheeseburger in your microwave oven. The cheese slice could become part of the edible packaging. In future years this could be likely, as the revolutionary packaging (that is being tested at USDA), is derived from casein protein. Casein forms part of milk-based products – like processed cheese slices and pies for example. Edible packaging could see fewer coffee cups cluttering up the High Street.
USDA tests have proven that casein is better than plastic at preventing oxygen from entering foodstuffs. In fact, its effectiveness is up to 500 times superior to its oil-derived counterpart. Proteins form a tighter network in polymerisation. During their tests, USDA has stated that edible packaging would be good for dried coffee and cheese sticks. Besides being digestible, it is also biodegradable.
But Cardboard Conquers All…
Though edible packaging with casein could be hailed as a wonder material, there is (good news for us!) still a role for cardboard packaging. In their findings, it is stressed that cardboard boxes will be needed, thus keeping the casein-derived packaging dry.
Especially With Takeaway Coffees
Did you know that cardboard coffee cups have a plastic or wax lining? Perhaps USDA’s findings could be useful in the coffee shop. The casein lining could come into its own, given the plethora of paper cups from Romiley to Rochester. How many plastic cups do you see ending up in landfill sites (particularly the hard plastic ones used at football grounds for hot drinks)?
Last year in America, KFC went one better: an edible coffee cup. With a biscuit-based vessel and a sugar paper sleeve (in Seattle’s Best Coffee livery), it was dubbed the Scoff-ee Cup. The end of this year shall see KFC’s edible packaging reach British stores. Cadbury’s Finger dipping good!
Any switch to casein-based packaging would see a drastic drop in plastic consumption. This would be a boost to the environment. As oil reserves fall, casein may be a realistic solution once we reach peak oil. Will it save the planet? Well, that depends on how successful USDA’s findings will be.