Food packaging is one of the largest contributors to waste single use plastics. Many food containers, both fast food and shelf food, are made from plastics such as polypropylene. These plastics are used due to their low cost, light weight and ability to be moulded into desired shapes, making it easier for storage, transportation and fit. Plastic also has good barrier properties against water, carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen. But many people are concerned after tests have suggested that plastic items leach chemicals into their food and water.
Now designers and scientists are looking to natural materials to hold food, as well as changing our mentality towards food. Instead of buying products with an extremely long artificial life span, we should purchase produce that is fresh, ethical, sustainable and has no packaging, or is packaged using natural materials. These natural materials may not help protect the food for an extremely long time but they are healthy for us and the planet.
Make Grow Lab
Roza Janusz has created food packaging from an organic material and can either be eaten after use, or composted. She has used scoby, which is a byproduct from the manufacture of kombucha. It is a cellulose membrane made of bacteria and yeast that forms on the top of the kombucha liquid during the fermentation process. The material can store dry or partly dried foods, including seeds, nuts, herbs and salad. By putting the material around the food like a film it creates a barrier against oxygen, which is the main reason for food decomposition.
Janusz has also looked at the future manufacturing of this material. By farming it similarly to how we grow vegetables in greenhouses it can be easily integrated into the system on an industrial level. This way a farm can become a circular economy factory.
Italian designer Emma Sicher has also created food packaging from the bacterial cellulose material. Her material focuses on combining food waste with the bacteria and yeast. The project is called ‘From Peel to Peel’ and looks at fermenting with fruit and vegetable leftovers. The microorganisms in the substance use the fructose in the waste to grow. Once dried, the material becomes a translucent sheet with varying qualities such as strength and colour, depending on the waste used. The microbial cellulose packaging can also be composted with organic waste, eventually turning into fertiliser for the soil. It is so safe it is even edible.
Designers Simone Caronni, Paolo Stefano Gentile and Pietro Gaeli have created packaging for chips, made from recycled potato skins. The material is made from starch and fibre components that, after maceration, bond with each other and harden.
The packaging is made from 100% potato peel meaning that it is fully biodegradable and compostable, returning to the biological cycle by becoming fertiliser.
Make Grow Lab