Apples are often associated with the month of September. During this time, a wide variety of early apples are plentiful at local farm markets and grocery stores. Apples are great for lunch, snacks, or dinner for school-age kids and hard-working adults. However, some creative scientists in Russia envision a novel use for apples with the additional benefit of reducing unwanted waste.
Many plastic cups and bottles are used only once before tossing them in a trash or recycling bin. As restaurants and others try to minimize landfill waste, edible dishware may replace single-use plastic items in the near future. Scientists at Samara Polytech have recently developed drinkware made from apples and other natural ingredients that can hold boiling water and other liquids for two to three hours. After using an edible "glass", it can be eaten. If the glass is not consumed, it can be placed in water where it will dissolve in twelve hours. Edible glasses are made in a variety of colors, including red, green, and purple (Figure 1).
To make edible drinkware, apples are first pureed, concentrated, and then bound together into a form that can be poured into a special mold before drying at warm temperatures. Researchers also tried making drinkware from other fruits and vegetables, such as, blueberries, currants, and black chokeberry, plums, strawberries, carrots, green beans, and pumpkins. However, apples produced the best flavored glassware and had better binding properties than other produce. The last step before commercial release of edible dishware is to automate the manufacturing of these items.
The initial idea to produce edible dishware came from a project to develop food for astronauts and to reduce waste on space missions. However, scientists also envision that edible dishware or food films might be used by workers in remote areas, such as the Artic or on offshore oil platforms. Campers and backpackers may also find these new products useful.
In addition to edible dishware, new compostable tableware will be the wave of the future in France. In 2016, a law was passed that requires all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January 2020. When this law was passed, The French Association of Health and Environment estimated that 150 single-use cups were thrown away every second in France (4.73 billion per year), with only 1% of them recycled. As new technologies are being developed and adopted, we may be may be munching on plates and cups soon. Bon appétit!
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REVISED: September 4, 2019