Researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute have developed a new food packaging that can be eaten along with the product inside, an invention they claim could transform the way we eat and use plastic packaging.
The packaging, dubbed WikiCells, has a protective outer layer or skin that can be eaten and was designed to imitate the outer layer of fruit and vegetables.
Wyss Institute founding core faculty member and research leader Dr David Edwards said that the idea behind the new packaging was to use the model of how nature wraps foods.
"It is a completely new way of packaging and eating," Edwards said.
A range of yoghurt pots, juice cartons, water bottles and ice cream containers have been developed by Edwards and his team in France, mimicking 'natural packaging' by enclosing food and liquid in an edible membrane.
According to the researchers, the edible plastic consists of a combination of algae and calcium and has been designed in shapes similar to the foods whose natural coverings it seeks to copy. It can be used to store solids as well as liquids including soup, cocktails, fizzy drinks and coffee.
The packages containing liquids can be pierced with a straw and the contents drunk before they are eaten, while the membranes can be washed under a tap and eaten, just like the skin of an apple.
The scientists, working on the packaging at a laboratory in Paris, have created a few instances including filling an orange membrane with orange juice, a tomato-flavoured skin with soup and mini-membranes the size of grapes filled with wine.
"You could put the little grape membranes in your mouth whole and squash them so you get the wine inside. Everything is useful and everything is good for you. You don't throw things away," Edwards said.
The first product expected to go on sale is Wiki Ice Cream, a vanilla ice cream frozen inside a cookie dough-flavoured membrane, expected to be launched by the end of the summer 2012.