Biodegradable, edible water pods developed to counter plastic bottle waste

Feb 4, 2022 | News

Companies are inventing alternatives to lessen the damaging impact of plastic water bottle waste but one Toronto restaurateur is exploring a sustainable alternative for her take-out packaging.

Krystle Barran, owner of health food caterer Ultra Fit Toronto, wants her meals to be packaged in material that would be, well, healthier for the planet.

“I’m thinking of converting to compostable containers,” she said.

Barran said she turned to Good Start Packaging in New Hampshire, which offers the biodegradable packaging — including straws, bags and utensils — she needs for her catering company.

“We’re going to start selling drinks like smoothies and real fruit juices soon, so I’ll have to consider the best alternatives possible,” she said.

Michael Muia, with Toronto Solid Waste Management collections and Litter Operations, said although items are biodegradable or compostable, the city is developing programs to handle to handle the material.

“For products marketed as biodegradable or compostable, it is important to note that this is a complex and varied category of materials that is constantly and quickly evolving, therefore it’s difficult to make any generalizations,” he said.

Compostable and biodegradable based plastics aren’t accepted by the city’s Blue Bin Recycling program because they are made of materials that are meant to break down, Muia said.

He said this type of waste should be discarded in the garbage and sent to landfills to break down accurately.

“The organics processing facilities were designed primarily to handle food waste and some fibre and paper products like tissues and paper towels, not packaging,” Muia said. “Items made of or lined with bio-based plastics do not have the right conditions to break down in the pre-processing stage at the City’s organics processing facilities.”

Labels to show the packaging is bio-degradable, compostable, recycled, and plastic-free.
Labels to show the packaging is bio-degradable, compostable, recycled, and plastic-free. Photo credit: Unsplash/Marcell Viragh

However, biodegradable materials can be up to 50 per-cent more expensive because of the enduring process to convert the materials into packaging, according to research by the Columbia University Climate School.

The Columbia study stated bioplastics made with more than 20 per cent of renewable materials could reduce plastic pollution, but it isn’t the only solution. Adopting a green mindset in everyday life can also lead to gradual and successful solutions for the future.

One solution might be edible plastic developed by Notpla, a company based in London. It developed in 2014 the edible water pod, made with biodegradable materials such as seaweed and other plants.

The clear membrane is thick enough to hold water, but thin enough to bite through.

Siobhan Ramsay, senior Toronto communications coordinator, said the city favours reusable containers over single-use plastics.

“It’s important to remember that single-use and takeaway items, regardless of material, require valuable resources and energy to produce, collect, process or dispose of but are not used for very long,” she said.

“When it comes to sustainable water packaging, we always encourage people to use reusable water bottles,” Ramsay said.