Edible Food Wrapper Made from Milk the Answer to Plastic Pollution?
Ever imagine eating your food wrapper? Now, it's possible, as a team of scientists discovered a revolutionary biodegradable film made of milk protein, which can replace plastic wraps.
According to researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by Peggy Tomasula and Laetitia Bonnaillie, the material uses a specific milk protein called casein. The said protein is mixed with citrus pectin and salts.
The result is a strong, moist-resistant material that looks like plastic cling wrap, the only difference is that you can eat it.
Bonnaillie said that even though the edible food wrap is similar in appearance with plastic cling wrap, it does not stretch as much as the latter but is strong enough to package food, CBC reports.
Meanwhile, when it comes to possibility of contamination and food leaching, Science Daily notes that the casein-based films are "500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food."
There are currently other edible biodegradable materials available in the market that are made of starch, but this new packaging from milk protein contains smaller pores to not let oxygen escape.
Aiming to produce a packaging with zero waste, the edible food wrap was originally a solution to the excessive milk powder production by U.S. dairy farmer. And because it turned out successful, the researchers are also looking forward to using the casein material in single-serve packages of food such as cheese slices, snacks and meats.
"Applications we are thinking of now are those little single-serve packages that use so much plastic. If you have children, they love them. It kind of hurts to use them but it's so practical. One possibility is to wrap those tiny snacks with our film," Bonnaillie said.
The researchers are also thinking beyond small packages, experimenting other ways to use the casein coating such as spraying it onto food like cereal to prevent sogginess or lining pizza boxes to avoid staining.
The current widely-used packaging products hurts the environment as they are mostly petroleum-based and non biodegradable, filling up landfills. However, this new discovery could open solutions to waste and pollution.