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Edible utensils

A wave of innovative designers and retailers are offering edible alternatives to plastic packaging, straws, and servingware in response to the growing consumer sentiment against plastic (and waste).

As governments take a more proactive approach, they are regulating the brands, retailers, and purveyors who sell single-use items like straws and lids and penalizing excessive waste. Seattle, California, and the United Kingdom have all passed laws to regulate the distribution of plastic straws.

In an effort to improve the drinking experience and reduce plastic waste, several brands have adopted flavored edible straws.

Diageo introduced flavored edible straws for their canned cocktail mixes in August 2018. For example, a strawberry straw is used for Pimm’s with lemonade, and a lime straw goes well with gin-Schweppes-tonic. Starbucks launched pumpkin spice cookie straws the same month after announcing that it would eliminate all single-use straws from its cafes worldwide by 2020. Pernod Ricard announced its partnership with Loliware in April 2018 to create the “straws of the future,” and Herald Plastic released edible-flavored straws in May 2017.

Chelsea Briganti is the cofounder of Loliware. It’s no longer about consumers sacrificing but about having fun while being environmentally friendly.

Some of the most inventive designs are aimed at replacing plastic wrappers and servingware with edible alternatives. Skipping Rocks Lab in the UK developed an edible water ball called Ooho as an alternative to plastic bottles last year. The exterior is made of plants and seaweed and is edible and biodegradable. Skipping Rocks Lab partnered with UK-based delivery service Eat in order to create edible sauce sachets from seaweed. Just Eat customers can try the sachets for six weeks starting in July 2018. Biotrem has a line of edible plates that are made from wheat bran. UK customers can find them in the zero-waste lifestyle store ViMi. Do Eat, a Belgian company, sells edible food wrappings, sandwich rings, and cupcake holders made from potato starch.

Sian Sutherland told the Guardian that “there is no logic to wrapping something so fleeting as food with something so indestructible like plastic.” Plastic food and beverage packaging is useful for just a few days, but it remains destructive on Earth for decades.

A study published by Science Advances in July 2017 shows that 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced globally since 1950. 79% of that plastic has been disposed of in landfills and the environment. Only 9% has been recycled. The study warns that plastic waste is so prevalent that it could “risk near-permanent contamination” of the natural environment.

Many retailers and large chains are taking proactive measures in response to the growing awareness of irresponsible brand behavior. Apple and Google, two tech giants, have committed to eco-friendly packaging. Ikea offers a line of cabinets that are made from recycled plastic. Adidas and Outerknown have created fabrics using recycled plastic. Eco-friendly and recycled packaging is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Innovative brands invest in packaging experiments, material science, and other innovations to impress their conscious consumers.

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