Your fast food burger could soon come wrapped in seaweed.
Burgers, fries, and nuggets can be a delicious treat. But the environmental impact of their packaging might leave a bad taste in your mouth.
These products often come wrapped in oil-proof plastic.
Not only does this packaging contribute to plastic pollution, but it is often coated with environmentally damaging chemicals like polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) to stop your treat from sticking.
These industrially-produced chemicals can accumulate in the environment and in human bodies.
In the UK alone, consumers generate 11 billion items of packaging waste a year.
Luckily a new breakthrough has brought scientists one step closer to a sustainable alternative - seaweed.
How would seaweed fast food packaging work?
Researchers from Flinders University in Australia have partnered with a German biomaterials developer to create a seaweed based biopolymer.
It is as recyclable as paper, explains Dr Zhongfan Jia, a lead researcher from the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.
“The seaweed extracts have a similar structure to the natural fibres from which paper is made,” says Dr Jia.
“Our novel specialist treatments boost the grease-resistance feature of the seaweed via simple modifications while not affecting biodegradability nor recyclability of the coated paper.”
The seaweed is native to the South Australian coastline. Now, 'one • five' - a German biomaterials company - is seeking to scale production up from the laboratory to the factory.
The product could be great news for the environment, says Claire Gusko, the company’s co-founder.
“We are able to reduce harmful plastic pollution with this product, and we are also using feedstock that is environmentally regenerative,” she says.
“Seaweed cultivation helps to naturally rehabilitate marine environments, reduce greenhouse gases, and mitigate coastal erosion.