Eat your packaging

Edible packaging made from milk proteinsTo address issues of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste, scientists are now developing a packaging film made of milk proteins — and it is even edible. The researchers presented their work at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Research leader Peggy Tomasula and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the new product. They claim that the casein-based films are up to 500 times more effective than plastic at keeping oxygen away from food. The casein-based packaging looks similar to store-bought plastic wrap, but it is less stretchy and is better at blocking oxygen. Nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals can potentially be included. It also offers scope for flavourings to be added, researchers say.

‘The coatings applications for this product are endless,’ says Laetitia Bonnaillie, Ph.D., co-leader of the study. ‘We are currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers. For instance, individually wrapped cheese sticks use a large proportion of plastic — we would like to change that.’

The product would have to be encased in a larger plastic or cardboard container to prevent them from getting wet or dirty.

The group predicts the casein packaging will be on store shelves within three years.