This blog spends much time on the issue of food waste and the associated environmental externalities — such as increased greenhouse gas emissions and increased use of unsightly landfill space. But beyond the actual food that is wasted, it is important to think about all of the wrappers and packaging material that accompanies all of that food — along with the resources and production processes that are used to produce it (and eventually haul it away for disposal). Significant change to eliminate much of the traditional that surrounds our food seems, well, difficult to consider at best. But David Edwards, a bio-creator and entrepreneur from Harvard, has developed a technology (WikiCells) to alter the way that we think about food packaging. Instead of surrounding food with plastic wrappers, Edwards has developed edible packaging from natural skins – such as grape skins – that can safely (and even tastefully) “contain” foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and cheese (with more to follow). The website of the company, WikiFoods, currently shows ice cream with coconut, hazelnut, and peanut-flavored skins (see http://www.wikipearl.com/#wikipearl).
Edwards’ innovation has the potential to prevent millions of tons of packaging material (wrappers, bags, and boxes) from entering landfills annually, along with the resources used to produce them. It’s another example of the benefit of regenerative processes that mimic nature rather than taking resources from one area, making a product, and discarding the remainder. WikiFood’s work is not only thinking “outside of the box” for sustainability, it’s eliminating the need for the box (and the wrappers, too!).