Every time you unwrap a cheese, there is a plastic wrapper left behind with the remains of said product. Where does it belong? In the bin, of course. What about creating packaging that is not only biodegradable, but also... edible?
The US Department of Agriculture is looking for such a solution and, surprisingly, is getting closer to an epoch-making discovery. It all comes down to one product - milk. Yes, the same one you pour over your breakfast cereal or add to your cocoa. More specifically, it's about the protein it contains, called casein. It is the key element that will be used to create edible packaging that is 500 times better at keeping food fresh than plastic. After all, instead of throwing the packaging away, you could just eat it.
Scientists are using a combination of casein and water in their research to create biodegradable, edible packaging (as seen in this short video by the American Chemical Society).
Such a mixture is poured onto a special surface where it dries to form a thin layer of material that is plastic enough to wrap around a product or use as a cover for some container.
In addition to casein, the researchers are testing the application of glycerol and pectin from citrus fruits to an already produced material made from the aforementioned protein. Preliminary results have shown that the new ingredients add both durability and softness to the material.
In addition, it is water-soluble, which could prove to be a breakthrough for products such as powdered soups or products packaged in chunks (like cheese). So a casein packet will be able to be dipped in boiling water to make your favourite instant soup, or to prepare another dish, without having to take it out of the packet.
For the moment, however, it cannot be distributed to the general public, as research into the durability of the material is still ongoing. Undoubtedly, in the not too distant future, such a solution could be an everyday occurrence. The only question is - what will it taste like?