How to ban plastic waste in the food chain

June 21, 2018

By: Rafael Tonon

While many fights against the straws, some designers and companies are thinking how to transform all the need of plastic for our food

While the whole world is fighting against the straws – the current villain that has come under fire from environmental activists  –  designers are thinking about new ways to solve the problem of disposing of plastic and other materials in the food chain. Some of them are quite innovative.

It doesn’t mean, of course, that plastic straws don’t pose a great danger to the environment, on the contrary – even so that McDonald’s decided to eliminate the plastic straws in all their UK venues and, more recently, Seattle became the first U.S. city to ban them. But it would be naive of us to think that it is the only problem in our current society who, in order to consume tons of food, ends up discarding even more garbage for it.

Thinking about how to restructure all the packaging processes of what we eat, companies and designers have come up with quite creative solutions. Last month, Saltwater Brewery, in Delray Beach, Florida, created edible beer holders to save the marine life – or, at least, to not put it in danger. The edible six-pack rings can feed, rather than kill, marine animals if the rings end up in the ocean and an animal happens to eat it.

The rings are created from beer by-products during the brewing process such as barley and wheat and are completely safe for humans and fish to eat. The brewery says that the innovative design package is as resistant and efficient as the plastic one, but with the drawback that edible rings are more expensive to produce.

Saltwater has been marketing the benefits of the new holders to its customers in order to make them aware that they can pay a little more in order to help the environment and animal life. These holders, such as the straws, usually end up in the ocean, representing a great risk to the life of many animals – who end up swallowing them.

Polish designer Roza Janusz went even further when she decided to create a new alternative to plastic food packaging as part of her graduation project at the School of Form in Poznań, Poland, which is 100% made from organic material and can be eaten after use. SCOBY, as her creation was called, is a membrane made of bacteria and yeast created during a fermentation process. SCOBY, by the way, means Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast and is extracted from agricultural waste. “SCOBY package is like apple peel, protects the inside and it’s eatable or serves as compost”, she explains.

She claims that the material, which she calls a “living packaging”, can prolong the durability of many types of food, such as seeds, nuts, herbs, and salad, and then be sustainably disposed of. Regarding her research process, Janusz explains that growing plants and growing SCOBY supplemented each other. “I used farms’ waste and the SCOBY was then used by farmers [as composts]”, she says.

“I had many scenarios of what we can grow but I decided to propose edible packaging to highlight the relation of farmer and designer, growing and making”, she continues. “In the project, I asked myself if the “exchanging-and-taking” can be applied not only to cultivation but also to the production of industrial goods. Is it possible to design growing? Is it possible to cooperate with nature, also for its benefits? Who will be the designer of the future in this scenario, and who is the farmer?”, she asks. At least for now, we all know that, like Janusz, it is providential to create a different scenario for our food packaging for the future.

Rafael Tonon

+ posts by Rafael

Rafael Tonon is a journalist and food writer. He writes about food, drinks and trends in gastronomy. He contributes to many media outlets, such as Eater, Vice, Slate and more. He maintains the trend food blog What the Fork.

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