8 circular packaging to solve your problems with food waste
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The circular economy is unleashing fresh ways to reduce food waste globally.
When thinking about food waste, we only focus on what we eat. But there’s more food for thought, like how our food is produced (i.e. agriculture/farming) and packed.
The ideal solution would be a sustainable packaging made from food or agricultural waste. In other words, circular food packaging!
Here I’ve mixed & matched some of the best examples of circular food packaging designs you should note down on your shopping list.
Before delving into it, let’s look at which are the problems with food waste.
2. Lettuce (reduce your food waste)
The true cost of food waste
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food wastage of agricultural products is costing us about £530 billion (as much as Switzerland’s GDP!).
In developed countries you can find plenty of food for cheap. Although this is a positive thing, it’s got a negative side-effect.
We may take food for granted and end up wasting too much of it.
Around 1.6 billion tonnes of food waste is generated every year in the world.
To add to that, the number of people starving across the world increased by 82% after COVID pandemic.
Besides the issues with food security, we need to consider the food waste impact on the environment as well.
But why is food waste bad for the environment?
Because globally it emits as much CO2 as that released by charging 400 billion smartphones!
Also, when food rots away in a landfill, it will give off methane, which is 34 times worse than CO2 for climate change.
And all this will add up to your food's carbon footprint.
Invisible food waste (e.g. food production) is also a big slice of the pie and it’s tricky to tackle.
Though we can do something about what’s just in front of our very eyes.
If done properly, composting is a great way to reduce your food waste.
Yet, you’re still left with the packaging! This is typically made of single-use plastic, a material that (fossil) fuels global warming and stays in the environment for up to 500 years.
So, how can we reduce our waste from food production and packaging?
That’s where circular packaging ideas come to the rescue!
But what is circular food packaging?
Sustainable packaging solutions for reducing food waste that are in line with a circular economy.
Put simply, it’s a packaging made of food or agricultural waste. Also, it should ideally be compostable or biodegradable. If not, you should be able to reuse it or recycle it.
Keeping this in mind, let’s dive into some of the most succulent sustainable food packaging innovations you can use.
1. Pickled packaging
Can you upcycle your leftover meals into food packaging?⠀
Yes, thanks to TripleW.⠀
This Israeli food tech startup came up with a magic trick.⠀
Except it's not magical, but biological!⠀
The company is collecting food waste from supermarkets and restaurants surplus to feed them to a reactor.⠀
Inside this big cooker, they add a secret ingredient: bacteria.⠀
Microorganisms feast on food and, once digested it (or pickled it, if you like), spit out the basic component of polylactic acid (PLA).⠀
What is PLA?
SPOILER: That's not a fancy name for poo!⠀
Rather, it's a renewable bioplastic (sugar cane or corn-based) that TripleW will reuse to design their circular food packaging!
To close their triple loop, the company recycles waste PLA in their process.
Can I get my food in it? Not yet, but it’s brewing up!
2. Lettuce (reduce your food waste)
That’s exactly what Feltwood is telling us!
Through the recycling of agricultural waste like lettuce and artichokes, the Spanish startup is creating plastic-free trays for fruit and vegetables.
Their final creation ticks all the (grocery) boxes: recyclable, biodegradable and compostable.
Plus, Feltwood’s circular packaging process has got a bonus. An organic fertiliser as a by-product.
Can I get my food in it? Not yet. Lettuce be patient!
3. Milking food waste
Just like TripleW and Feltwood, Mi Terro is drawing a perfect circle: From food waste all the way around to food packaging.
They’re upcycling whey protein, a by-product of yogurt and cheese production, to create a home compostable, ocean degradable and edible film to wrap your food with.
The company is working with Dole Packaged Foods, a giant in the food industry, to commercialize their dairy waste-derived packaging.
On another delicious note, the Los Angeles-based startup is also turning expired or gone off milk into plastic-free clothing.
Can I get my food in it? Not yet, unless you wanna wrap it with their milky T-shirts...
4. Magic mushrooms
Circular packaging ideas are springing up like mushrooms. Literally!
The UK start-up Magical Mushroom Company has created a sustainable alternative to polystyrene.
Just mycelium (mushroom roots) and agricultural waste (hemp, hops, corn).
They mixed all together to get one of the best sustainable packaging designs to wrap food with.
And it’s home compostable!
Their packaging will magically vanish in less than a month. Believe it or not, it’s not a hallucinogenic effect!
After starting their production in 2020, the company will soon launch a new plant to churn out 3 million fungal packaging units per year.
A circular myco-spell to make plastic disappear!
Can I get my food in it? Yes, though strictly speaking, non-alcoholic gin is not quite food...
5. An invisible algae treat
After magic mushrooms, the supernatural show goes on.
Putting their "Foodini" hat on, Notpla has made packaging disappear!
They’re using seaweed along with other plants to create a biodegradable transparent film.
Although not made from food waste, Notpla packaging uses algae, which is a fast-growing and largely available raw material.
And you can also eat it! But you need to be fast as it’ll vanish in 6 weeks!
If you’re not that hungry, you can compost it along with your food waste.
Their first ghostly creation is Ooho. By providing these edible pouches for the 2019 London Marathon, Notpla prevented 200,000 single-use plastic bottles from ending up in landfill.
But it’s not just for water.
Notpla squeeze any kind of liquid in their Ooho sachets: ketchup, salads dressing and even cocktails!
The company has recently launched their plastic-free takeaway box. With a chemical-free paperboard and a seaweed liner, you can either recycle it or compost it at home.
Whatever you do with it, this eco-friendly box will eventually fade away leaving no trace.
Inspired by their circular packaging design, Just Eat is trialling it for their food deliveries in London.
Can I get my food in it? Yes, but you might not see it!