Edible space packaging could help curb global plastic crisis
Typical polyethylene wrap takes 500 years to decompose, while the edible packaging created at Samara Polytech decomposes as quickly as apples do.
CLOSER TO HOME: Whilst the film was designed for astronauts, they may have an application on earth PHOTOGRAPH: @SamaraPolytech
Edible packaging designed for astronauts could help wean consumers worldwide off their plastic habit. The packaging, produced by Samara State Technical University in Russia, consists of a film created from the region’s apples.
According to the leader of the project and the Head of Food Technology and Catering Department, Nadezhda Makarova, the film was aimed at the space menu modification. “We tried to create a packaging to store food, heat it, and then eat it along with food. Other sorts of packaging materials are inconvenient in space: it is difficult to dispose them” she said.
There are already several examples of such a packaging but they are only conditionally edible. The analogues of the edible films consist not only of natural raw materials but also of artificial additives.
Therefore, according to the scientist, a human body is not able to fully digest it. Samara Polytech scientists created a packaging based on fruit or vegetable puree which consists of natural ingredients. Moreover, the product is very low on caloric value.
The production technology involves fruit and vegetable puree taken as a liquid mass with a plasticiser. Then, the mass is dried at a temperature of no higher than 60 degrees Celsius. At higher temperatures, the packaging becomes too brittle.
The team created more than 500 experimental edible films samples. The samples carry high level of material strength and are able to compete with the materials obtained from cellulose. It is trying to patent its invention.
Samara Polytech expects its product has a market not just in space, but closer to home, becoming ‘indispensable’ in Arctic territories, offshore oil platforms and during long journeys.
In addition, scientists are experimenting with fruit raw materials and developing apple dishware and cosmetic masks based on apples with the introduction of plant extracts.