Scientists at Chinese University on Thursday said a new type of food packaging they are developing can break down naturally and is even edible.
The researchers said the novel packaging is made from bacterial cellulose – produced by combining tea leaves, sugar, and water which are then fermented with bacteria.
They said the cellulose takes seven days to cultivate and can decompose within two months.
Professor Ngai To, who leads the research team, said the packaging could replace plastic straws, bags and food wrapping film.
“How long the protection for the food [lasts] really depends on what type of food you use for this packaging. Some, like vegetables we stored in the laboratory, and they can last for one or two weeks and still keep their freshness,” he said.
“But we haven’t tested other ingredients like meat. They should be kept at a low temperature. That is one direction we are looking for.”
Ngai said it is difficult to estimate how much the new material could be sold for.
“Because we are still at the laboratory scale so it’s difficult to estimate. But I think the cost will not be expensive. Most involved ingredients are tea and conventional sugar. So ingredients are cheap and the growth rate is within a week,” he said.
The government plans to phase out all disposable plastic tableware in the city – including plastic cutlery, plates, cups, and stirrers – by the end of 2025, and the researchers said they hope the new material they are developing could help Hong Kong achieve this goal.