Single-use food wrappings are a major component of household plastic waste. Although many are recyclable, they are often not accepted by local recycling plants. This means that in a great number of households they’re simply thrown into the bin as soon as they’re removed. Unfortunately, this simply adds to the mass of plastic regularly making its way into landfill sites. To solve this problem, Belarusian chemist, Professor Tatsiana Savitskaya, has developed an edible film that doesn’t need to be removed from the food at all.
Professor Savitskaya describes the film as being like the inner skin of an orange. It will prolong the food product’s shelf life, contain it, and protect it from micro organisms. As it is designed to be eaten, it will then need to be further protected by an outer layer of skin. This outer skin can be a biodegradable product such as a paper bag or cardboard box.
The main component of the film is starch, meaning it has no flavour of its own to affect the food contained within. Other natural additives, though – such as salt, pepper, herbs, and spices – can be added to the film when necessary. As the food can be cooked in the edible film, the flavourings in the film can be used as seasonings for the food. For food products such as meat or fish, that are intended to be fried, the film can even be infused with oil for use in the cooking process. But that’s not all the film does. As well as adding flavour, it will also prevent moisture from being lost during the cooking process, keeping the food moist and succulent. Whole new ranges of food products could be developed for supermarkets using the edible film as the starting point for dishes.
Because the film dissolves in hot water, it’s the perfect container for packets of seasonings in products such as instant noodles, or for honey portions for sweetening tea. As it doesn’t need to be removed before eating, the film is ideal for sticky sweets, or for crumbly cakes and muffins. The possible uses for the film are many and varied.
In recent months, issues surrounding plastic waste and the importance of reducing the amount being produced, have become very mainstream. This has lead to proposed charges being imposed on disposable coffee cups, discussions about placing a ban on plastic straws, Glastonbury festival announcing a ban on plastic bottles, and a supermarket in the Netherlands introducing its first plastic free aisle. As such a large amount of plastic waste originates as food packaging, hopefully edible film will soon find its way into production and into shops.