The environment is becoming an increasing concern worldwide, as the amount of waste each year grows. In 2009, each Canadian was said to produce around 777 kg. of waste, leaving the environment in much worse shape than we found it.
Many companies have come under fire for the extravagant ways in which they package their food. Desperate measures are taken to interest the consumer, and it is oftentimes at the expense of our environment. The U.S. department of agriculture has come up with a plan to reduce all this useless garbage used by the packaging industry.
A new product is in the works that incorporates milk protein and water into a thin, film–like product called “casein.” The eco-friendly packaging will be used for all types of food and can even be ingested. Casein wrap is an all-natural product that contains no harmful chemicals and can be digested safely. The new packaging can also be easily broken down in the environment, alleviating the amount of waste produced worldwide.
Aside from being biodegradable, sustainable and edible, casein will also alleviate the over-production of milk, which only contributes further to the national food waste dilemma. Typical plastic takes around 1000 years to decompose, rendering it an extremely harmful environmental hazard.
Casein also slows the oxygenation of food, meaning that food will go stale at a much slower rate. In 2010, Americans wasted 133 billion pounds of food because it had gone stale. Casein could drastically improve the shelf-life of packaged food.
According to the American Chemical Society, in addition to being used as plastic pouches and wraps, the casein coating could also be used as a food spray for cereal bars or flakes – eliminating the unhealthy sugar coating that is currently used to help cereal keep its crunch.
Another application currently being tested is single serve edible food wrappers. Individual dry soup portions, rice, noodles, and instant coffee could be added to hot water where the film would dissolve, eliminating packaging waste.
Although the milk protein is easily broken down, experts speculate that the food will still need some other form of packaging. Nonetheless, casein has still proven to reduce the use of plastic by large companies. Due to the fact that this kind of packaging is such a basic combination of milk protein and water, it can even be flavoured to fit different types of food and tastes.
The versatile plastic wrap is not yet in production but it seems that the sooner companies are able to access this eco-friendly wrap, the closer we are to a healthier planet.