Edible cutlery could resolve waste issue
Research released this week from Allied Market Research, suggests the global edible cutlery industry is expected to more than double from US$27.2 million in 2019 to US$56.9 million by 2026.
The use of edible cutlery is growing significantly in the airline industry for in-flight catering, though the most growth is expected to come from consumers who choose to use the utensils for picnics and packed lunches, especially for soup.
Plastic cutlery has become an incredibly useful part of our contemporary daily life. Its fundamental ease of use, and the easy manner in which we can dispose of it, has seen its use skyrocket over the last two decades.
Consequently, plastic cutlery has been a massive contributor to the plastic pollution that proliferates in out oceans and landfill. It’s a pollution level that is so significant scientists recognise it now as as its own geological epoch; the human-influenced, manmade Anthropocene.
Though impossible to know exactly how much plastic cutlery is used each year, estimates suggest the US alone uses 40bn plastic utensils. Extrapolate that globally – one estimate is that global use is 16 times that of America – then take one look at our oceans and landscape, and the problem is obvious.
But help may be on the way in the form edible cutlery. Yes, you read that right, knives, spoons and forks you can eat.
The latest research suggests that the huge market for plastic cutlery represents a potentially significant market opportunity for edible cutlery. Made from plants, edible tableware, including chopsticks, have a huge potential to replace their plastic counterparts, but also, could be a healthy and nutritious alternative, owing to the presence vitamins and minerals – they contain fibre, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and folic acid – in the plants from which they are made.
One company, hoping to start a cutlery revolution by making compostable utensils as a replacement for the current plastic disposable utensils, is Bakeys – an Indian cutlery company based in Hyderabad, Telangana.
The cutlery is tasty, fun, nutritious, and environmentally friendly. We want to make plastic cutlery obsolete– Narayana Peesapaty, founder and managing director, Bakeys
Peesapaty came up with the idea after taking a domestic flight in India and watching people use thin wafer-like khakhra crackers as spoons to scoop up rice and curry.
The utensils are made from sorghum flour, rice flour, and wheat flour.
Beyond biodegradability (and any nutritional) advantages edible cutlery is also less wasteful to produce. Plastic cutlery is usually made of polypropylene and polystyrene; just one kilogram of which can require 160-litres of water to produce. One kilo of Sorghum meanwhile uses less than nine litres of water to produce.
There has been some resistance to the idea amongst some environmentalists who argue that edible cutlery, though a step in the right direction, is still wasteful in terms of energy and production; and is, after all, still a single-se product. They argue that people should use reusable cutlery they carry with them instead, in a similar manner to the trend now to carrying reusable water bottles rather than using disposable ones.
Our view at Volta is future positive: It’s better than the situation we have right now and could contribute to better nourishing some of the world’s poorest people. In a perfect world we’d all be carrying our own reusable utensils, and we should all be encouraged to do so, but in those places and at those moments when, for whatever reason, disposable cutlery is our only option, then edible cutlery can’t come soon enough.