The milky way
A new kind of packaging cuts food waste, replaces plastic, and — if you’re still hungry — it’s edible.
It seems like all our food comes wrapped in multiple layers of plastic. Some of that packaging ends up in the ocean where it often winds up as a dolphin corset or the foundations for our future Waterworld flotilla.
But this new packaging breaks down in water, and it preserves food better than plastic. You can even eat it, if you like.
Two scientists, Laetitia Bonnaillie and Peggy Tomasula, led a U.S. Agriculture Department team that created this packaging using milk proteins. They expect some form of it to be on store shelves in three years. The invention was unveiled at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, leading to this snazzy video:
There are challenges ahead for this potential plastic killer. Plastic is really cheap — it’s made from natural gas and petroleum — and this new packaging will be more expensive. John Coupland, a Penn State food science professor who has worked on milk plastics, pointed out that biodegradability can be a mixed blessing — you don’t want the packaging to start breaking down before you are ready. What’s more, wrapping from methane-producing cows may not be more sustainable than wrapping from petrochemicals.