Would you eat the plastic package that held your yogurt or orange juice this morning? Most people would say no, and most wouldn’t recycle that container either. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the United States alone generated almost 7 million tons of plastics as nondurable containers and packaging in 2010. Only 12% of these packaging plastics were recycled.
Dr. David Edwards thinks he has the answer: a technology that could create a package that’s tasty enough to eat. Recently, he introduced WikiCells, edible packaging “entirely comprised of natural food particles held together by nutritive ions.” WikiCells can be used to hold either food or drinks. According to its creators, these innovative containers can be adapted to taste like whatever they hold. Think orange-flavored for orange juice, fudge-flavored for ice cream or tomato-flavored for salsa.
Edwards, a a biomedical engineer at Harvard, likens WikiCells to the skin of a grape. They can be washed, just like the skin of an orange, and actually have some nutritional value, provided by the ions (calcium, for example) that hold them together. With no plastic, no wrappers, and no artificial ingredients, WikiCells could be the answer for both the health conscious and environmentally-conscious consumer. Current prototypes include containers for ice cream, cheeses, and yogurt, but Edwards promises more are on the way.
What do you think? Will we see WikiCells in grocery store aisles soon? Is this the answer to our plastic-filled landfills, or just the latest attempt to leverage sustainability to achieve business success?