Plastic can actually be delicious

“Yum!” I say as I take a huge bite out of my food wrapping. But there’s something wrong with it. The taste of my meal is a bit lacking- “I’m missing the sriracha, can’t eat my plastic without that!”

My dinner: A glossy chunk of plastic with a side of strawberries. Delicious. Credit: Author’s own

Feeling a little weirded out about that scenario? Thinking that it’s disgusting to pair sriracha with plastic wrap and strawberries? Well in actual fact, that can very much be the future of Australians, and the world (Okay, so maybe not paired with sriracha. But you get the point).

Because guess what? Edible plastic is legitimately a thing!

Although the average plastic has many great benefits to society, plastic is known to last around more than 400 years on earth before saying their final goodbyes to humanity.

Landfills become overflowed with abandoned plastic waste, increasing the risk of it blowing away and littering the faraway homes of oblivious sea creatures. The saddest thing is, sea creatures are clueless about the harm plastic does to them. This is mainly because plastic looks, smells and sounds like normal food to them.

Dolphin: “Oi, looky ‘ere George. There’s some Jellyfish on me fin! Tonight, dinner’s on me.” Credit: Jedimentat44 via Flickr under the license

In order to combat the devastating effects of plastic, geniuses across the globe have devised all sorts of solutions to the monster of a problem.

One solution being the creation of biodegradable, edible plastics.

Did you say, milk and fruity plastic?!

Yes, a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) team lead by Peggy Thomasula has invented food covering made of casein, a type of protein obtained from milk. Citrus pectin extracted from citrus fruits was added to strengthen the casein plastic. The final product was a plastic with tinier pores, thus allowing it to preserve food more effectively, up to 500 times more effective than the usual petroleum wraps.

Can you imagine these as a plastic? Credit: 27707 via Pixabay

The casein, pectin plastic appeared very similar to the usual plastic after a few touch ups. However, it was less malleable than traditional plastic food wrap, better at preserving food and 100% edible. Seems like an acceptable trade off to me!

The USDA has also create food film from their plastic invention. The casein pectin film can drastically lower the amount of traditional plastic used in products such as singly wrapped cheese sticks.

They’ve also made a couple of other improvements to the plastic that you can read up on here.

However, unfortunately there are some cons.

Since Casein is derived from milk, the plastic wouldn’t be suitable for vegans or individuals allergic to milk casein. So it was thought by Thomasula that their wrapping should be limited to products that already contain dairy.

Want dairy free edible plastic? Lucky there are other kelpy alternatives also being made out there.

Can seaweed really kelp us?

An Indonesian company called Evoware has designed food packaging that is seaweed-based. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s also beneficial to us! Seaweed packs quite a punch in the vitamins department. It also contains high amounts of fiber, good for digestion.

Although it’s tasteless (unless you request flavour to be added), if the thought of chewing on seaweed disgusts you, there are other benefits.

The seaweed packaging is zero-waste. It can dissolve in hot water and be distributed around the garden as a fertilizer! Great for the all the gardeners out there. David Christian, the owner of Evoware shows more uses for their seaweed packaging in this video.

This alternative would be perfect for vegans, those allergic to casein and Muslims, as it’s also halal! It’s more inclusive and can help tackle climate change as seaweed alone absorbs carbon dioxide up to 30-60 times the rate of plants grown on land. This macro-algae is truly amazing!

Seaweed is our friend Credit: Anna Barnett via Flickr under license

Unfortunately, despite these wondrous creations, plastic waste is still a growing problem, hurting many sea creatures. Which is why the focus should also be on reducing your current plastic usage, as well as embracing alternative materials to be used in the wider community.

I know it’s both difficult and unrealistic to harm nothing with our plastic waste, but my goal isn’t to make you go anti-plastic. It’s to get you thinking about the impact you have on our ecosystems. It’s to get you to be more conscious of what you’re throwing away and embrace non-traditional plastic alternatives.

Maybe in the near future, we can all snack on our edible, plastic wrapped strawberries together!