Today we want to present the sustainable alternative to plastic packaging based on vegetable and fruit scraps developed by Emma Sicher in her thesis project “From Peel to peel”. Inspired by Italian designer Bruno Munari who said, “nature is the first producer of packaging in the world: every peel, shell or skin aims to protect its content”, Sicher wanted to find or create a material which would follow the logic of natural food protection.
Firstly, she started investigating mycelium, a fungus-based material we already talked you about here, followed by bio-plastics and yeasts. After a broad material research, Sicher found the SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of microbes or bacteria that can ferment and create layers of cellulose. She eventually discovered that fruit and vegetable scraps that are high in sugars and low in pH could be used to nourish the SCOBY.
These scraps mainly came from like apples, potatoes and beetroots that were soaked in an acetic compound to create a sort gelatinous material. After resting from two to four weeks, the gelatin is dried and so transformed into sheets of material.
“Depending on the food, either apple leftovers or potato/grape pomace, the cellulose will have a different smoothness, time of growth and color because as ‘we are what we eat,’ the same happens with bacteria,” says Sicher. “Depending on what they eat, their production of cellulose will be influenced”.
Emma Sicher hopes her eco-friendly packaging could be a valid solution to the urgent waste problem our society is facing. Also, she hopes the entire production could give life to a circular economy process.
Theoretically, the cellulose production plant would receive the fruits and vegetable scraps from local producers or industries and use them to feed the SCOBY to produce cellulose sheets. Then, the production plant would dry the layers and either manufacture and sell finished or semi-finished products themselves. Hopefully, the products would be used in the same area providing a local answer to the use of plastic and paper.- Emma Sicher
The material, that has a two years life span and can be easily recycled, can be used as eco-friendly packaging for dry goods, such as legumes or pasta.
Recycled or bio-based materials investigation has taken a central stage in the design field in the last year and we believe it is going to be even huger in the future. Though plastics are a key material in our everyday life and economy, their downsides for the environment and health are very huge. For this reason, action on plastics was identified as a priority in the Circular Economy Action Plan of the European commission last year. The strategy is part of Europe’s transition towards a circular economy and will help protect our environment as much as support more sustainable and safer consumption and production patterns.
Are you interested in learning about what is going on in the ‘green’ design scene? May be you would like to be more responsible too and contribute by being in the know? Please check out our 160 pages Trend Report REGENERATION which comes packed with uplifting projects, ideas, color palettes, consumer expectations and so much more: