Much of the plastic we see today can be recycled. But the ones that cover food and are supposed to keep food fresh can’t. Neither it is good at preventing food spoilage. That means figuring out how to keep food fresh was a challenge seemingly met by plastics. But as it became clear that spooling out all that synthetic packaging was adversely affecting the environment, interest in greener methods of preservation has spiked. Now people have pioneered a drastically more efficient covering to preserve food better than plastic… and it’s made out of milk!
What is it made of?
The new film is edible and biodegradable, both of which beat the current starch-based version, but it also works 500 times better at keeping oxygen out. The researchers have found that a milk-based protein could be combined in powder form with water to form the basis of the new packaging material. Proteins are good at keeping oxygen away as they form a tight layer in polymers. It also preserves food products that are sensitive to light better than plastics. To make it more practical, they added glycerol to soften it and citrus pectin to resist humidity and high temperatures. And we get a new wrapping standard, to which vitamins and flavorings could be added to enhance taste!
What food to preserve can you think of?
It can also be used to line pizza boxes. Materials to coat the cardboard surrounding your pizza are not good and past materials have been banned. They give the cardboard that smooth layer and prevent cardboard from spoiling from food. A coating of this film could very well serve as an alternative product to prevent grease and stains.
This kind of packaging could surround dried coffee or soup packets that could be dropped in hot water instead of torn open, emptied and thrown away. But until companies take the initiative to fast-track the new material into their products by finding a way to use, it can take years for this thing to come out as a product. Let us hope it gets attention as it is a great step forward toward living in harmony with our planet.