Since the advent of pre-peeled, individually contained oranges, it has grown increasingly apparent that grocery story packaging can be excessive and downright wasteful. Fortunately, researchers are developing a new remedy in at least one area of packaging waste that could revolutionize not just the way we package food, but expiration dates and flavor, too. Their solution? Milk!
Rather than tackle already recyclable plastics like butter tubs and milk jugs, scientists are focusing on the stretchy, thin, annoying plastic wrap that encases things like cheese and meat. Like this:
It turns out, this kind of plastic can be much more difficult to recycle and could even be adding harmful chemicals to your food, according to Bloomberg. So researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying a milk protein called casein that would make an edible, biodegradable, sustainable film. The casein based wrapping is 500 times better at keeping oxygen out of food because of a tight network of proteins polymers which deters spoiling.
USDA researcher Laetitia Bonnaillie told Bloomberg that as packaging becomes smaller to accommodate a grab-n-go culture at work and in schools, we begin to see more and more waste. According to Bonnaillie, edible packaging would be a great way to combat that waste.
The casein film also includes glycerol and citrus pectin for texture and structural purposes. According to Bonnaillie, “These films will be more health-enhancing than starches.” To think of it practically, consider that this casing could be used for sugar packets and soup. Rather than tearing the pouch open, pouring out the contents, and throwing away the package, you could theoretically drop the entire thing in your coffee or soup.
It’s like back when you thought gum came in edible paper! Except this time it could be true.
Additional applications include lining pizza boxes with a casein layer and spraying cereal with casein instead of a sugar coating. Milk on milk on milk!
Bonnaillie told Bloomberg it would likely be years before the USDA makes casein packaging available as research is currently at the very beginning stages. Let’s hope it’s here sooner rather than later.