Don’t Ditch Plastic, Just Eat It

Could your hot chocolate soon include drinkable plastic? Photo credit: Stephbond flickr stream.

During our 2011 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers found nearly 1 million pieces of food packaging on the world’s beaches — enough for one person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the food packaging waste that’s out there.

We can all do our part to help reduce plastic waste by choosing products and takeout that use less or more sustainable packaging. But personal choice will only go so far.

Meaningful change has come from the top — from the companies wrapping our to-go sandwiches, packaging our frozen dinners and making the plastic that keeps it all fresh and ready to grab off the shelves.

Some may hope these companies turn away from plastic and go back to a time when glass bottles ruled the shelves, but such a change is unlikely. Technology does not have a habit of moving backwards. More likely, the answer lies in improving plastic so it has less of an impact on the environment — or disappears entirely. That’s where MonoSol comes in.

MonoSol is creating new lines of plastic packaging that dissolve in water, making it literally disappear. Jon Gallagher, MonoSol’s new product development manager, described the product this way to Fast Company:

A blow-up view would kind of look like a brick of Ramen noodles. Once there’s water penetration, the molecular bonds loosen up. Until that point, the material is strong enough to serve as packaging for food. It’s a wrapper until it isn’t.

MonoSol’s plastic is already being used to package dish and laundry detergent and soon could be wrapping food as well. Convenience foods ranging from hot chocolate to frozen lasagna could be packaged in water soluble, edible plastics. If the consuming public buys into the solution, it could have a big impact on how much waste we produce and what ends up on our shores.

The idea of eating plastic may sound strange and uneasy to us now, but I have a feeling the convenience of it will rule the day. Forty years ago, zapping our food with radiation to heat a quick meal was a revolutionary concept. Now, the microwave is in nearly every kitchen and dorm room in the country.

So what do you think? Is soluble plastic part of the solution to ocean trash? Are you squeamish about a future where we’re eating plastic?

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  1. Industry needs to make the change to starch based packagings which are now widely available, fully bio-degradable and compostable

  2. I would hope they would take a serious look at the bio-accumulation concerns before putting this stuff on the market. I’d hate to hear a ‘whoops’ ten years down the line.

  3. I would hope they would take a serious look at the bio-accumulation concerns before putting this stuff on the market. I’d hate to hear a ‘whoops’ ten years down the line.

  4. why don’t they just make it able to be composted? i don’t want to eat the wrapper. how would you wash it anyway before you eat it?

  5. What the hell, with all of the other industrial/corporate crap we eat from pesticides and herbicides, to antibiotics and hormones, why not have us eating plastic. Heck, Dow says that ‘dioxin is good for you’, maybe eating the packaging your over processed glop at Mc Frankenstein’s is thrown at you in will help keep it down.

  6. Hah! Yes, we thought “zapping” our food in the microwave was bad. And we thought right – microwaving in plastics releases endocrine disruptors and is absolutely NOT safe in that sense. I’m okay with a biodegradable, even edible, plastic as long as I know what it is made out of and the consequences of using it. However, many companies are intent on masking some ingredients and the consequences of ingesting them. So can we trust this new technology? Who knows…

  7. This is probably one of the most terrible Earth-friendly ideas I’ve ever come across. I would hope companies like MonoSol, who have the capabilities to come up with an idea like this and actually create it, would do a little more homework on the debilitating effects of such components as PLASTIC before metaphorically, and eventually, shoving it down our throats via marketing and such- especially catering to the eco-conscious consumer… Hopefully, in the least, they are more well versed in what’s smart and healthy than these jokers. I’m just floored this isn’t a satirical article.

  8. wow. plastic has components in its material and processing that microscopically mutates DNA strands, making it indetectable within a short period of time, but causing debilitating effects in the long run, especially to babies and infants. I see the desirable end result, but the way to it is an absolutely terrible idea. MonoSol obviously didn’t do their homework on plastic, nor do they seem to care to do so if they are so quickly apt on consumers ingesting it.