Edible paper, sachets made of algae, water from a bubble? While we’re still busy trying to reduce our plastic and tin foil consumption to save the planet, some businesses are already exploring more radical options – by experimenting with edible packaging.

Better Burger: clean fast food

Fast food in edible paper
Fast food with a twist: Better Burger’s wrapper can be eaten with the sandwich.
Photo: Undertow Media NZ

When Rod Ballenden founded his fast food chain Better Burger in New Zealand, he noticed how quickly the area around his outlet got covered in trash: After enjoying the sandwiches, patrons would simply drop the wrappers on the street. So, Ballenden decided to switch all his packaging for 100% compostable materials. On Earth Day in April 2018, he took his initiative one step further by wrapping all burgers in razor-thin wafer paper – packaging that could simply be eaten together with the burger. While this was a one-off campaign, Ballenden’s action definitely throws a spotlight on fast food solutions for a low-waste future.

Ooho: water from a bubble

Ever munched on water? What might sound crazy at first is now a realistic option: London start-up Skipping Rocks Lab has come up with handy, water-filled bladder-like bubbles named Ooho. For inspiration, Skipping Rocks turned to molecular gastronomy: A chemical reaction captures the water in the bubble, which then needs to be consumed within a few days of production. And once the bubble is empty, the plant- and algae-based receptacles turn into a healthy snack. To date, these novel refreshments have mostly graced special events, but according to the start-up, they will soon be available via other outlets.

Edible water bubble made of plants and seaweed
The aesthetic of a raindrop: The Ooho! water containers are sustainable and look nice.
Photo: Katherine Fawssett

Evoware: perfectly protected waffles

David Christian, co-founder of Evoware, also believes in the potential of algae as a viable plastics replacement: His Indonesia-based start-up recently developed edible packaging for the fine waffles by Belgian manufacturer Bruxelwaffle. As an unexpected bonus, the bags even supply intrepid consumers with extra fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Algae are an especially eco-friendly raw material since their production requires neither fertilizer nor other resources. And during growth, they even absorb CO2.

The packaging from sheets of algae contains valuable fiber.
Photo: Evoware

Bakeys: the world’s first edible spoon

The USA alone goes through a staggering 40 billion pieces of plastic cutlery a year, while the entire world’s consumption adds up to 16 times as much. Narayana Peesapaty from India found this unacceptable – and decided to manufacture edible spoons from just three ingredients: rice flour, wheat, and sorghum. After regularly selling 1 ½ million spoons in India per year through his company Bakeys, he recently also started shipping his vegan and fair-trade utensils to the rest of the world. Look out for his upcoming range featuring different flavor profiles from celery to ginger-mint.

Edible spoons made of rice flour, wheat, and sorghum
Eat up: The spoons by Bakey’s make plastic cutlery obsolete.
Photo: Bakeys

Tomorrow Machine: packaging designerware

How come a smoothie only keeps for a day or two, while its packaging lasts for years, maybe centuries, in a landfill? When Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine focused on this issue, they came up with edible packaging that lasts exactly as long as its contents. For a great example, look no further than this smoothie, which comes in jelly-like algae-plus-water packaging that not only looks très chic, but also biodegrades after just a few days. If you haven’t already consumed it together with the smoothie, that is.

Smoothies in containers made of alge jelly
Smoothies – packaged in containers made of alge jelly.
Photo: Tomorrow Machine