A group of scientists has unveiled a new material that can replace plastic packaging. During the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Aug. 21, the research team presented a new food packaging film made of milk proteins.

This new milk packaging is edible and does not leak possibly harmful chemical to our food, as what the regular plastic films we use to pack our grocery items that include meats, breads, cheeses and snacks does. Unlike plastic food packaging, the milk packaging film is biodegradable and recyclable.

Lead researcher Peggy Tomasula adds that milk packaging is better at preventing food spoilage. This benefit could prevent food wastage.

Tomasula and scientists from the US Department of Agriculture used the milk protein casein. Initially, the new packaging was hard but it dissolved in water too quickly so they added citrus pectin into the casein blend. Consequently, the milk packaging became more resistant to high temperature as well as humidity.

The researchers say that edible packaging are already found on the market. However, these packaging are made of starch, more porous and less effective in blocking oxygen.

The new packaging looks the same as the regular plastic wrap, the researchers say. However, it is not as stretchy. Although the new product is edible, the vitamins, probiotics and minerals are not yet present but will be included in the future. The researchers also say that the milk packaging does not have taste but can be added with various flavors.

“The coating applications for this product are endless,” points out co-leader Laetitia Bonnaillie. “We are currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers. For instance, individually wrapped cheese sticks use a large proportion of plastic — we would like to fix that.”

The team recommends placing the packaging inside large plastic or cardboard container. This would prevent them from getting dirty or wet.

The milk coating can also be sprayed to food. It could be used to spray cereal, replacing sugar coating, to keep them from getting soggy. Pizza makers can also use them to prevent the food’s grease from contaminating the packaging.

The team is improving the milk packaging. They expect these packaging to be available in the next three years.