Food waste has been making headlines recently, with the expansion of New York City’s extensive composting program. But what about the food containers themselves? Turning the remains of last night’s risotto into nutritious fertilizer is all fine and dandy, but you’re still left with empty sauce jars, pasta boxes, and bottles that once held cold-pressed olive oil.
Jugs of milk, bags of rice, and other plastic containers can take years to break down in landfills or in those large floating “islands” in the Pacific, and not everyone is diligent when it comes to recycling.
The folks at Tomorrow Machine, a design studio based out of Stockholm and Paris, have come up with the “This Too Shall Pass” line of packaging to tackle the issue of food containment from a more sustainable angle.
An egg even vegetarians will love
Oil-based foods are a pain in the neck. You can never get all of them out of the container, the plastic or glass bottles get slippery and greasy, and getting the containers clean for recycling is often more trouble than it’s worth.
The “This Too Shall Pass” alternative takes the form of a small egg-like container made of caramelized sugar and wax.
Unlike water, oil doesn’t cause sugar to dissolve, making it the perfect starting point. The sugar is caramelized and then coated with a protective layer of wax. To get at the oily goodness inside, you simply crack it open—just like breaking an egg.
Once the sugar is exposed to air, it will break down over the course of just a few days.
Hey, come over here and tell me if this milk smells bad!
Most drinks—aside from the creepy blue “juice” you can get by the gallon from dollar stores—will eventually go bad. Fresh juice, fruit smoothies, and milk all sit in bottles or jugs that will be around long after the liquid inside has gone.
The “This Too Shall Pass” alternative is essentially a juice box made out of agar-agar seaweed and water. As the seaweed loses moisture, the container starts to shrink and break down.
It degrades at a rate similar to the drink inside, which means you’ll have a great visual indicator for roughly how long you have left to drink it.
You can rip off the top for easy pouring, or just jab it with a straw and relive your memories of elementary school lunch.
A different kind of rind
Fruit peels inspired this rounded pyramid, used for storing dry goods like rice or barley.
Made entirely of beeswax, you simply peel the container apart to get at the tasty grains inside. It’s simple, straightforward, and completely biodegradable.
The only problem is...
Right now, it looks like all of these containers are geared toward a single-serving, one-time-use scenario. So what if you only need a teaspoon of olive oil, instead of the several ounces that a single "egg" contains? What if you wanted to make a family-friendly stir-fry? Would you have to buy an entire carton of rice pyramids?
The inability to re-seal these containers is a hurdle that needs to be addressed, but there are certainly practical solutions available. Consumers may simply need to store excess food in Tupperware, or distributors could release packages in different sizes.
But more likely, the innovators creating this packaging will eventually come up with a resealing solution.
According to a statement made by the design studio, only one of the three packages is currently in early stages of development for a food brand, but hopefully someone will pick up the rest of these nifty creations.
Dealing with packaging waste is as important—if not more so—than actual food waste, and this is one of the most creative solutions we’ve seen to date.
Images: Tomorrow Machine