In what’s at least a better use of resources than that time the U.S. Census blew $2.5 million on a Super Bowl ad, it looks like a group of crackerjack researchers at the USDA have created a clear food wrap that’s made of milk. The wrapping is meant to go around products like cheese, which seems appropriate, and the edible film, which relies on a milk protein called casein, is actually a pretty serious step up from the usual plastic — they claim it’s about 500 times better at sealing off food, totally biodegradable, and even pretty tasty.
It’s made by combining casein with glycerol (for softness) and citrus pectin (for more heat and humidity resistance), adding water, then spreading the mixture into a thin film. Flavorings can be thrown in, too, if somebody were really of a mind to put mozzarella in a mozzarella-flavored outer wrapper or whatever.
Right now, the plastic wrap it seeks to replace is mostly found on cheese and meat, but researchers argue that the applications for their new casing “are endless.” Why not, say, package soup? Instead of emptying the contents and throwing away the packet, you’d drop the whole thing into hot liquid, and it would dissolve, eliminating packaging waste.
Commercial use is years away regardless, but other ideas include using it to keep cereal crunchy without mummifying it in a sugar coating, and lining pizza boxes with something the FDA doesn’t believe is toxic.