Innovations In Sustainability: Eating our packaging?

We are thrilled to report that green packaging options are going beyond recyclability to meet the sophisticated demands of eco-friendly consumers.  Is edible packaging part of our plastic-free future? With dead zones on the rise could things like seaweed packaging have a lasting effect on saving our oceans?  

Mindful consumers are driving packaging trends in 2018. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), “approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year.”, bringing an all-out assault on human-made materials.   Consumers are more concerned than ever about the global problem of plastic and protecting the environment.

Delray, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery, uses Edible Six-Pack Rings to package and carry its beers.  The Edible Six-Pack Rings, on the other hand, are 100 percent biodegradable, compostable and edible. If they are not ingested, the product takes 60-90 days to disintegrate when in contact with water.  Instead of killing animals, the packaging feeds them, says Chris Gove, president, and co-founder of Saltwater Brewery. “By using byproducts of the beer brewing process such as barley and wheat, this packaging goes beyond recycling and strives to achieve zero waste,” says Gove.

A Florida-based startup, Poppits, is a toothpaste company using water-soluble pods to attempt to reduce the need for plastic toothpaste tubes and caps. In efforts to eliminate plastic pollution, Poppits use food-grade edible film to house single-use toothpaste pods that completely dissolve when brushing, which are packaged in sustainably sourced, biodegradable cardboard and recyclable aluminum. Poppits inventor, Wayne Solan, hopes to decrease bathroom mess while providing an edible and environmentally friendly toothpaste package.

Ecovative is a design and packaging company working to develop, produce, and market environmentally friendly products to work in conjunction with the Earth’s ecosystem. The New York-based company begins at the cellular level by using mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, to grow packaging for wine bottles, cold storage, or any product needing support. Ecovative uses various nutrients and environments to grow the mycelium packaging which creates differing strengths and flexibilities. While Eben Bayer, a co-founder, says the packaging is, in fact, edible, he encourages consumers to compost it to use as fertilizer.

Apeel, a translucent ‘peel’ that slows water loss and oxidation from Apeel Sciences, works to extend the freshness of fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of rotten, wasted food. The California-based company, Apeel Sciences, used plant-derived materials found in peels and skins in creating Apeel to naturally lengthen the shelf life of perishable foods. The sheer coating keeps air out by acting like a second peel and is completely edible. Apeel is trying to reduce the amount of food lost for producers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers.

Biotech companies have made huge strides in manufacturing products and ingredients for edible packaging. So far, the biggest challenge is finding substances that can hold up in any environment. Once this problem is solved, it will be up to the food companies to partner with the right packaging company to implement a consumer-ready edible packaging plan.

A Spoon You Can Eat Is a Tasty Alternative to Plastic Waste

With approximately 75 percent of our rubbish generated by packaging, a few simple steps - buying loose fruit and veg, choosing products with recyclable packaging, and avoiding individually wrapped portions - can have a big impact.”  Sheherazade Goldsmith

With so much to think about when it comes to packaging, (materials, factories, transit, recyclability), thank goodness many foods already make it easy by having an outer natural shell that provides a protective barrier between the food and environmental damage. Like, root vegetables, avocados, and bananas. So why add a plastic sticker to the outer layer when nature has its own branding process?

Philip Chadwick, the editor of Packaging News, said, “The ongoing plastics debate could mean that more edible packs will be developed.”  “How comfortable will consumers be with eating packaging?” asks Chadwick. “Will it taste good? Would anyone want to eat packaging that has been handled by other shoppers?”

Whether for the sake of global warming, resources conservation, animal protection, or otherwise, what was once a niche is becoming a global trend and trending in the right direction.  Although we may not be quite ready to eat our packaging yet, the fact that packaging is becoming more and more biodegradable brings nothing but smiles to Chihuahuan Desert Charities. We as a society are armed with information.  Now let’s continue to make packaging more friendly to mother earth.

While achieving sustainable agriculture is one of the greatest challenges of our age, at its core there is nothing political or controversial about it: Agriculture that does not meet these criteria will not persist and will be unable to support human civilization.”  Jeffrey Potent

The DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program is a non-profit dedicated to regenerative organic agricultural practices to teach the benefits of land stewardship in the Paso del Norte Region. DYGUP, an acronym for Developing Youth from the Ground Up, is available to youth ages 14-17. The SUSTAIN program targets adults over 18 and combines "Roots Of Success" Environmental Literacy Curriculum with intensive farmer training. The DYGUP/ Sustain Program has many partnerships in the community including Taylor Hood Farms, Backyard  Farms LC, First Christian Church, and Las Cruces High-School. Chihuahuan Desert Charities is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for DYGUP & Sustain and support their important work in the Las Cruces community.

Support the DYGUP & Sustain Program at Legacy Farm in Las Cruces by visiting ChihuahuanDesertCharities.org.