Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment

Fisherville, Ontario, Canada

Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231



Vol. 18, No. 7, October 14, 2014

Honoured Reader Editon
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In various recent conferences about packaging and recycling we have heard participants express enthusiasm for the concept of edible packaging. We were somewhat sceptical - after all Canadian diets already contain too much junk, but, wanting to base our opinion on good science and not just idle thoughts, we decided to take a deeper look at the topic. Some of our research is reported in this issue of Gallon Environment Letter. If you thought that edible packaging was confined to edible paper wrapping or if you hoped that maybe we could solve our waste problem by making all packaging edible, read on for some of the information that has led us to the conclusion that there may be a small role for additional edible packaging but it seems that edibles are unlikely to take over a large percentage of North America’s packaging needs anytime soon.

GallonLetter chose this theme of edible packaging as much for our edification as our readers' who are interested and not knowledgeable on this topic. A number of people with whom GallonLetter's editor has had conversations about packaging, have been enthusiastic about the role of edible packaging especially for waste reduction sometimes quoting from McDonough and Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle (2002) in which edible packaging was promoted. (see also review of their book The Upcycle in the last issue). What isn't clear is what edible packaging is, whether it reduces packaging waste and what other environmental, health and social impacts might be associated with it. GallonLetter speculates that edibility itself is not a sufficient criteria to conclude that packaging is environmentally preferable. Although raw materials for edible packaging could be synthetic, a comparable case is the issue of biofuels from farm crops, some of which use so much fossil fuel and chemicals that using fossil fuels directly would be just as good if not better.

In our review we look at the definitions of edible packaging and some of the numerous uses of edible packaging. Read on - you may be surprised at where these packaging forms can be found! And beware that edible pizza box - see the article below for the reason why!

As in most issues of Gallon Environment Letter we also look at some other contemporary environment and sustainable development issues. We briefly review a research report on stopping global deforestation authored by Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon. The OECD has a new report on greening households. Ontario's Environment Commissioner describes the economic and financial risks facing countries and corporations in a changing climate.

It is not often that we find ourselves in agreement with Terence Corcoran of the National Post but when it comes to Canada's new anti-spam legislation we are pretty much in alignment. Read the mild version of our comments about anti-spam, something which has added to our distribution burden, reduced our circulation burden, made no difference to the amount of spam email we receive, and added to our frustration in responding to the unnecessary confirmation emails that people who have sent us useful information for years have decided they need to send to us.

The next issue of Gallon Environment Letter will take a look at green bonds and green investments. Meanwhile we hope you find this issue interesting and enjoyable. We invite your comments, for possible publication, to






Product packaging is often defined as primary, secondary or tertiary. Legislation, such as for stewardship programmes, may be more precise but in general primary packaging is the material in contact with the product, secondary packaging contains one or more primary packages and tertiary packaging is the case which facilitates handling and transporting of a number of packages.

Edible packaging is most often considered for use as primary packaging - the packaging in direct contact with the food. The definition becomes confusing when the coating becomes part of the food so it is difficult to determine whether the edible packaging is actually food rather than packaging. For example, candy M&Ms, the chocolate candy product created in 1941, is described as edible packaging developed so the manufacturer could sell more chocolate which would otherwise melt in the summer heat without the gum-based coating. We think that this might be more of a product innovation and that applying the term packaging to the candy coating of an M&M is a bit of stretch. But if the coating is packaging, it illustrates that the conclusion that being able to eat the coating means that there is no environmental impact for the packaging is wrong. M&Ms have to be packaged in something else, usually a bag or a carton, but if it is packaging, something with which we disagree, then the coating has to be accounted for as packaging in lifecycle analysis of the chocolate’s packaging. If you want chocolate, candy coating such as is used for M&Ms with this added packaging is hardly an environmentally efficient packaging material compared to the paper and aluminum foil of a bar of chocolate.

Using edible packaging on a particular product may or may not reduce overall packaging or environmental impacts. In 1992, in guidelines on packaging audits on what was then a national initiative to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment suggested that it isn't just the reduction in the primary packaging that should be considered but the whole packaging system. Increasing primary packaging may allow for the elimination of secondary or tertiary packaging or the primary packaging could be reduced by changes in the secondary or tertiary packaging. Reduction of the environmental impact of packaging may be achievable through various means.

In 2011, Éco Entreprises Québec, with involvement of a number of companies, launched the Voluntary Code for the Optimization of Containers, Packaging and Printed Matter. A web portal called, active since 2013, focussed on reduction at the source and ecodesign as well as recyclability of packaging and printed matter. Among the strategies are to design optimally: "This strategy consists of designing optimized packaging by considering the complete packaging system: primary, secondary and tertiary. This involves using good quality materials to protect the product while avoiding over-packaging. An optimal design is also one that reduces total costs during the entire life cycle of the packaging/product combination."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The most common discussion of edible packaging in food and packaging research literature seems to relate to edible films and coatings. A coating is different from a film in that a coating is applied directly to the food while a film is a stand-alone or removable wrapping material. Various coatings are used for example to extend life of melons, to reduce uptake of fat when frying fish and potatoes, to preserve apples, avocados and other vegetables, to prevent microbial growth by substituting wheat gluten for eggs, to keep apples from discolouring after being cut and to extend shelf-life of such products as nuts and chocolate covered peanuts.

Coatings such as lard and wax have been used for centuries to preserve fresh fruit such as citrus and apples. Edible film has been in use for only about 50 years according to Attila Pavlath, formerly at the US Department of Agriculture, who has developed techniques to allow for the sale of cut up apples and other foods. The need for edible films is seen to be primarily due to the nature of the supply chain: food is no longer produced and consumed near to home but takes a long time to reach the table through transportation, warehouses and retail stores. Food damaged even minimally at any step can spoil, lose moisture, become unsightly, lose taste or develop off flavours, and lose nutrition. In 1967, there were no companies supplying edible films. By 1986, there were perhaps 10 companies in this business and by 1996 there were 600. In recent years, the number of companies has risen to 1000 and the annual revenue is over $100 million.

Dr. Pavlath has been lead scientist at the US Department of Agriculture Western Regional Research Center and recently associated with a commercial enterprise. His contribution to science, chemistry and agriculture as well as his contribution to the science organization, the American Chemical Society, was recognized by offering an entire session about his contribution at the ACS 28th annual meeting in San Francisco August 12, 2014.

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The definition of an edible biopolymer film, defined in the book Innovations in Food Packaging edited by Dr. Jung Han formerly of the University of Manitoba and more recently with Frito-Lay is "a single thin layer of edible material that can be used as a food and biomaterial product or a packaging film for foods." Among the advantages of edible film over non-edible materials such as plastic are:

  • they are biodegradable and can be eaten along with the product
  • they act as protection to prolong the shelf life of the food
  • they can contain additives and active agents such as antimicrobials, preservatives, antioxidants.

Edible biopolymer films has been discussed by numerous papers since the 1980s.

Raw materials for edible films include "lipids, polysaccharides and proteins" with proteins being the most common. Some examples are:

  • water soluble polysaccharides include cellulose, starch and flours, carrageenan, chitosan and pectin.
    -chitosan is found in crustacea, insects and fungi and are already widely used in the food industry for various purposes. As edible packaging, chitosan could also act as an antimicrobial to protect against Listeria.
    cellulose has been used as a film called cellophane since 1908 and as an edible film since the 1980s.
  • protein from both plants and animals include wheat gluten, corn, soy, peanut, gelatin, casein, milk whey proteins. While protein films tend to have positive features for edible packaging such as less moisture and gas permeability and better mechanical strength, some protein films such as that made of soybeans tend to absorb moisture.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Food packaging researchers see the advantage of edible films and coatings have close contact with the food as enabling various additives which protect from bacteria, extend shelf life, provide flavourings and other enhancements from nanotechnology and biotechnology. Another book, edited by Dr. Han (see also separate article) outlined some of the complications associated with additives of antimicrobial agents:

  • The antimicrobial agent needs to be approved for food contact by regulatory agencies.
  • The cost has to be low enough to warrant commercialization. For some high cost foods such as certain seafood, a higher cost may still be cost-effective.
  • Different antimicrobial agents react differently with films made from different raw materials.
  • The characteristic of the food needs to be considered in decisions about which if any edible film will effective. Factors such as the pH of the food and how much water the food contains may affect the growth rate of pathogens.
  • The storage temperature usually affects how fast the antimicrobial diffuses into the food. Usually the higher the temperature the faster the diffusion.
  • The antimicrobial activity needs to be effective during manufacture as well as the entire shelf life of the food. The environmental conditions e.g. humidity and other factors could affect whether the pathogens are kept under control.


In the US, a list of chemicals are approved, some many years ago, some for indirect contact with food, since the 1960s. GallonLetter notes that some of these have been listed mostly due to lack of evidence that they are toxic. Health Canada also has an approved list for food contact. While Health Canada doesn't directly use the GRAS approach, evaluations take the listing of a substance as GRAS into account. Over the years, different uses of these chemicals may result in exposures which are toxic or information becomes available that some of them have been toxic all along. More studies are needed to ensure that expanded use of edible packaging does not result in toxicity.

Religion, Health and Choices

Edible packaging may contain ingredients that pose a problem for consumers and labelling may not provide them with the necessary information. Some effort is being made to address specific concerns such as fish gelatin to replace pork for Halal and Kosher foods. In many cases it may be more difficult for the consumer to know e.g. celiacs could react to wheat gluten. Vegetarians may find dairy and whey-based films acceptable but vegans wouldn't and neither consumer would like edible packaging made of crustaceans. Other issues related to labelling for consumer choice may include GMO labelling for which there is growing demand and nanotechnology materials.

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In the Candy Man song for the musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971, Sammy Davis Jr. sang not only about the candy being delicious but "you can even eat the dishes" and indeed some ideas for edible packaging have it replacing plates, cups and cutlery directly with edible versions or design the food so no utensils are needed. Examples of approaches include:

  • eliminating the need for cutlery by serving the food so it doesn't need it e.g. wrap
  • using natural containers such as sweet pepper for a soup container
  • replacing plate with an edible item such as bread
  • designing edible items for specific purpose e.g. see below for Picnic Tower and Cookie Cup

Motivation for reducing the need for dishes may relate to cost reduction as well as environmental considerations e.g. cutlery may be subject to theft, reusable dishes need labour for collection and energy/water for washing.

At a local Feast of Fields event, the organic food sampling event now held in the summer across Canada, chefs were obligated to use non-throw-away container. Without dishwashers available on the grass, many found some ingenious ways to serve morsels of food in edible containers including wraps such as wontons, rice paper, lettuce and cabbage, on flat surfaces such as cucumber slices, in shaped edible containers such as pastry shells for tartlets or chocolate cups for desserts or savoury or sweet cooked inside a dumpling or doughnut. Some people might call that edible packaging.

The Edible Picnic Tower

A design at the 2014 Milan Design was of edible bread containers which could be filled, stacked, wrapped in a table cloth/napkin and taken to a picnic. The lid of each container has serrations so it can be broken to use as utensils for scooping the food. Being a design event, the description is suitably matched; "KIRA and The Edible Tower (Of Containers) is a collection of utensils, that facilitate with the production, transportation and consumption of an outdoor varied meal. While cooking, one can as well prepare edible containers which will later become part of the dish consumption. Along with the evident ecological approach, the idea of simultaneously preparing food and container, conceals a sensibility to the process and an additional tactility to the consumption. The linear progress of food preparation for a temporary, alfresco meal becomes circular, and this very routine results to a complete nothing. What remains is the memory of the communal meal."

GallonLetter notes that this "nothing" idea is misleading as there is something at both the front end and the back end. It took more than nothing but rather energy and material to raise the grain, to make the flour, to handle it at the retail level, to bake it, to wash that napkin and of course, when people eat something they have to go, as that clever toilet paper ad makes clear. GallonLetter is almost certain that while some people might want that much bread some of the time, that most of the time, a part of those filled bread containers won't be consumed and will become food waste due to not being safe to eat later. Nevertheless, just as the fashion on the runways in Milan are adapted before being sold at the retail level, the idea may provide a launch for something useful.

Manthou, Kostantia. KI-RA and The Edible Tower (Of Containers). [Scroll or search to find the above entry]



In a partnership with Venezuelan designer Enrique Sardi and those involved at the Italian-based coffee company Lavazza's Training Centre came an invention called the Cookie Cup, which is shaped into a Lavassa espresso cup and lined with a sugar icing which can take the heat of coffee. Since then it seems the designer is working on developing the concept further for the market under the name Crunchy Cup. GallonLetter didn’t find data on the relative benefits of a cookie vs a paper or other disposable or reusable cup but suspects this is another example where there may be occasions when the coffee drinker doesn’t want the cookie which becomes food waste. Some proponents of edible packaging, and there seem to be quite a few enthusiasts, claim that the benefit is still there in that the cup can be tossed out with the food waste and compost. GallonLetter would argue that using food just to throw it out is still wasteful. Depending on the lifecycle of the various options, it could be that compostable but not edible cups would serve the same purpose better.

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To keep Japanese delicacies separate in the bento box or lunch box, paper or plastic wrap is often used but one source recommends edible cupcake shaped containers made of seaweed sold as Ready-to-eat Nori Cups from Japan, containing 56 wraps. The premise is that since the cup is edible there is less waste but even if that were true, more information about the lifecycle of the cups is needed e.g. making the cups may take more energy and materials than a paper one especially as apparently paper is used to separate the cups in their plastic bag. Converting the wet seaweed to sheets was inspired by papermaking more than a hundred years ago as a way of preserving the algae. The cup is described as somewhat fragile e.g. the rice put in should be cool so there may be losses of cup and food in some cases. Also if a product is edible but not used often enough, it could go stale leading to waste.

About 10 billion nori sheets valued at between US 1.5 to 2 billion dollars a year are produced each year in Japan, 20 x 20 cm and weighing about 3 gram and commonly used as a sushi wrap. China and Korea are major producers. Seaweed production can have negative environmental effects. When nori operations were set up in Puget Sound in Washington a number of years ago, the public objected to the visual intensity of rows of nets and structures on which the algae grow. The structures also reduce sunlight to other sea organisms and the disturbances due to seeding, maintaining and harvesting can affect other marine life. In general, however, using Porphyra, the red algae on which nori farming is based, is environmentally friendly, according to a report by the FAO. Nori has been eaten from the wild in Japan where it grew on rocks especially in shallow waters in cold oceans for more than a thousand years and cultivated for more than 300 years. Discovery of the complicated spore production resulted in the ability to expand production by growing one of the life stages indoors to produce the spores used to grow nori on the nets.

The industry has and is changing from the traditional methods which requires a lot of labour and was overseen by a cooperative of fishermen. As the industry changes to larger corporate production, the environmental impacts may change as well. Production areas have been near shore but some had to move due to land reclamation and pollution. Moving offshore makes the nets more subject to storms and waves sometimes resulting in installation of concrete and iron pilings to reduce damage from the sea. Away from the shore, there are less nutrients from runoff from the land so more fertilizers are needed. Along with mechanical production. artisanal production still exists producing high value nori. Climate change is affecting yields from ocean sources.

Technology to allow land-based production is thought to provide a future of a steady supply. Seaweed is seen as a way of using the waste created by the fish as nutrients for the algae. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) discusses that concept as "Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)" which is described as "one solution that encourages greater environmental stewardship while increasing economic benefits for growers and communities. IMTA is a different way of thinking about aquatic food production that is based on the concept of recycling. Instead of growing only one species (monoculture) and focusing primarily on the needs of that species, IMTA mimics a natural ecosystem by combining the farming of multiple, complementary species from different levels of the food chain. For example, one form of IMTA is to grow fish, invertebrates (like mussels and sea cucumbers) and seaweeds close together for the benefit of each crop and the environment."

Some say seaweeds should be called sea vegetable because of people's aversion to the weeds but while algae are plant-like they are neither plants nor animals. Other algae-derived ingredients such as carrageenan and agar are used to make edible packaging such as biofilms with plasticizers such as glycerol.

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Monosol a US company purchased in 2012 by Japanese polymer company Kuraray, developed an edible film: "Vivos Edible Delivery System is designed to be eaten along with the ingredient, food, or beverage that it is delivering into water." Made of a blend of food grade synthetic and natural ingredients, the company says it does not reveal except under confidentiality agreements, the film dissolves in liquid such as water, juice, milk, or alcohol. In cold water it may take 35-40 seconds to dissolve but in warm to hot water, it dissolves much faster. The film can be used in existing hot seal machines.

Applications marketed with some of the benefits especially related to food loss include:

  • Manufacturing Aids
    -"Water soluble bags that will change the way that additives and ingredients can be added. Vivos enables pre-weighed doses of items such as colors, flavors, and enzymes to be delivered into a batch by just tossing the whole delivery system in. No more cross contamination, no more clean-up of dust or spills of messy color. No more measuring of color which can lead to errors, equaling lost dollars."
  • Foodservice Aids
    -preportioned control means there is consistency reducing waste. Because the ingredients such as spices, enzymes, yeasts, pastas and flour are completely separated from each other and only accessed when they are used, they are less likely to be contaminated and have a longer shelf life.
  • Instant Food and Beverage
    -Elimination of primary packaging means there is no solid waste heading for the landfill, provides portion control and convenience, and multiple products which might be incompatible can be provided in multiple compartments or pouch design. Example of products include whey proteins, workout beverages, meal replacement shakes, energy drinks and fibre.

Tide Pods ®: Non-food Application of Dissolvable Packaging

P&G recognized Monosol as a key partner for the development of Tide Pods, "The challenges of Tide Pods were different from previous projects: three different cleaning solutions are encased in separate chambers in each pac, all of which need to remain separate until fully immersed in water. Additionally, the film surrounding the cleaning solutions had to be designed to dissolve in a range of water temperatures, from hot to cold. And it needed to dissolve completely so no residue would remain." The market for the laundry detergent innovation grew to $500 million a year.

We have not been able to find published studies which identify the environmental impacts of soluble packaging such as Monosol or which analyse the lifecycle of soluble packaging to conventional boxes or bottles but we note that most soluble packaging requires that a box, jar or tub also be used so it may not be eliminating any packaging. GallonLetter has concerns that while there may be no residue left of the dissolvable packaging, more chemicals are entering the water system then when non-dissolvable packaging would otherwise have been sent to recycling or to a landfill with leachate leakage prevention. The same concern might also apply to dissolvable food packaging with the added concern about what chemicals are added to the human body before some is excreted into the water system.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Packaging is one the keys to reducing food loss reduction especially in the developing world where small- and medium-scale food processing industries in developing countries face problems in accessing economically feasible packaging materials, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Possible solutions were originally presented at Save Food!, a conference held in Duesseldorf, Germany in 2011 and this new update report encourages investment for packaging to serve the dynamic global food supply chain.

Packaging Industry

In developing countries, packaging to reduce food loss in the entire value chain is most important at the farm to market part of the chain while in the industrial countries, food waste occurs more at the retail to consumption stages.

Packaging, however, is not just about food loss reduction but has become "an added P to the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion), particularly in terms of facilitating branding, product differentiation and identity which is best communicated at the point of purchase." Packaging has multiple roles including promotion, information, convenience and handling. In general, the product is more valuable than the packaging so reducing packaging to gain environmental benefits are likely to come at the expense of greater environmental impacts of damage or loss of the product.

Solutions should consider the net impact of the product with its packaging. Indigenous materials from the developing South especially for packing fruits and vegetables tend to lack strength and durability but could be combined with other materials; research and investment is needed. Similarly relaxing packaging regulations to accommodate the lack of packaging materials in the South to allow more recycled packaging materials where risks are low e.g. dried foods would increase the supply of packaging materials while reducing food loss.

The packaging industry, the third largest global industry after food and petrochemicals, is among the top five industries in most countries with an annual growth of 3-5% which tends to be higher than the growth of GDP in most countries.

Packaging Solutions Include Indigenous Packaging Materials in Developing Countries

There are examples of use of indigenous materials for packaging in developing countries. One example is FruitPlast developed by researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Tropical fruit waste is ground into flour which is then fabricated into biodegradable plastic film comparable in strength to normal plastic wrap. The bags last one to two years on the shelf, degrade in three to six months and cost 10% less than conventional plastic bags.

In Egypt which began to export olive oil only relatively recently, innovative packaging has added value: the bottles of olive oil are sold in a wooden box made of recycled thin wooden boards covered with a paper-like papyrus handpainted by local craftsmen, women and youths with old Egypt art.

Another example mentioned is edible food packaging developed by Turkish researchers. Flexible film is made from egg white, corn protein and other natural substances said to kill microbes on the food.

These are just an example of potential packaging solutions which are outlined in a chart including:

  • the various stages (production, post-harvest, distribution, processing, wholesale, retail and consumption)
  • the loss situation and causes e.g. at production stage - unnecessary variety of packaging types, high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per ton of production and non-recyclable wax-coated boxes for delicate perishables.
  • Selected packaging solutions e.g. for production - universal packaging design, modified atmosphere packaging, integrated materials handling and warehouse management systems, recyclable packages with excellent moisture barrier, reusable plastic containers.

GallonLetter notes that the report illustrates the many facets to be considered for adequate packaging in a complicated global situation. Edible packaging could be part of a strategy to reduce the environmental impact of both packaging and food loss but obviously a relatively small contributor to solutions.


FAO. 2014. Appropriate food packaging solutions for developing countries. Rome, Italy: 2014.



A fruit-like skin surrounds a "pearl" of Stonyfield organic yoghurt in an innovation in the frozen food aisles in a test pilot at four of Whole Foods stores around Boston, Massachusetts. Called Stonyfield Frozen Yoghurt Pearls, the product was created using Massachusetts Wiki Foods, Inc technology called WikiPearl. The manufacturer compares it to the natural coatings of fruits such as grapes. The edible packaging is made from certified organic fruit and the entire product is certified organic. Stonyfield founder Gary Hirshberg said on the company's web site, "We’ve long dreamed of the day that after you eat the yogurt, you eat the cup too. Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are the next step in our evolution. No spoon needed, just a delicious bite of beautifully crafted organic frozen yogurt served without any container. Re-imagine all the ways you can eat your favorite organic dessert – in the car, on the beach, with the kids at the park – no spoon, no waste, no limits.” However, the web story says, "stores aren't yet equipped to sell them completely package-free." They are packaged in stores in cellulose bags made from wood fibre. Otherwise the pearls can be carried without a container and washed.

Edible Packaging Wins Dairy Award

At the 9th Global Dairy Congress award ceremony held in Istanbul, Turkey on June 18, 2014, the collaboration between Stonyfield and WikiFoods was recognized with awards for:

  • Best Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
  • Best Dairy Packaging Innovation
  • Best Overall Concept

WikiPearls Inventor

Part artist, part entrepreneur, chemical engineer Dr David Edwards of Harvard University has been involved with innovations in food besides the WikiPearls also called WikiCells. although the web site associated with that name seems to be gone. In 2012, his Le Laboratoire, a big space in the Louvre in Paris, featured Le Whaf, air wafted from "sushi" and "duck l'orange" in glass bottles. The company Breathable Foods marketing products in the US was the subject of a complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration by a senator due to concerns of marketing such products as airborne caffeine to young people and expressing concern about possible hazards to lungs. The company was renamed AeroDesigns to supply AeroLife products so in the future, food might just be dispensed as smoke although currently there seems quite a bit of packaging associated with the products described on the web site:

"THE AEROLIFE TECHNOLOGY: AeroDesigns’ unique AeroNutrition delivery systems provide up to a few hundred milligrams of nutrition for functional benefit and culinary pleasure by simply drawing air through the lips. Tiny solid and liquid particles full of nutrition follow the air into the mouth and land on the tongue to give immediate taste and quick nutrient delivery to the body. Devices deflect particles perpendicular to the axis of the throat, toward the tongue and sides of the mouth where they are swallowed. Additionally, particles are specially engineered to be small enough to travel though the air, but too large to enter the lungs."

Stonyfield Farm, Inc. Stonyfield Wins "Best New Concept" at World Dairy Innovation Awards: New Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls - A Giant Step Forward in the Edible Packaging Revolution. PRNewswire. Londonderry, NH: June 23, 2014.

Stonyfield Farm, Inc. A Bite of the Future. No Cup or Spoon Required. by Stonyfield Kristina.

AeroLife. Smart Air-Based Nutrition.




Packaging materials create waste for flights to the international space station but waste is hauled back to be burned up in the Earth's atmosphere. With goals of setting up a base on the moon or Mars, shipping material which becomes waste is less feasible so NASA has studied alternative packaging discussed in 2009 studies. Goals include:

  • avoiding packing material entirely
  • reducing volume of packing materials after use
  • using packing materials for secondary applications.

At the time, further study was recommended as properties of edible substances for packaging were unsubstantiated. It was deemed likely that a combination of edible and non-edible packaging would be most effective. Candidates for applications for edible packaging include: dehydrated food, edible paper, ink, fabrics and films, popcorn, rice cakes, beans and lentils, semi-consumables such as bubble wrap filled with food, sausage, wax-coated cheese and unspecified engineered food.

Despite ten year of research, NASA spokesperson Michele Perchonok, Manager of the Science Management Office for NASAs Human Research Program, speaking at the conference of the Institute of Food Technologists in June 2014 said they haven't made significant improvement in balancing the provision of safe, nutritious food with efficiency needs for the vehicle in areas such as water, mass, energy, cooling and waste. Food must have a five year shelf life as there is no refrigeration. They are still looking for the ideal combination of processing, packaging, formulation and the environment.

GallonLetter notes NASA promotes the idea that space research has contributed to food innovations which became common on Earth so perhaps success for travel to Mars will provide solutions to excess use of resources and waste on Earth as well.

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Some of the applications for edible film don't claim environmental benefit directly although it is possible that substitution of film for other labelling or packaging may be greener. Ascona Food Groups Canada (Mississauga, Ontario) provides a number of ingredients and packaging and includes environmental benefits as a whole for its company:

"Utilizing scientifically proven ingredients and additives, our systems can effectively enhance product stability. This, in turn, allows for an increase in a products shelf life and reduction of waste and product spoilage. Our systems can reduce the risk of food safety concerns such as Listeria and other food-borne pathogens. Ascona's functional ingredient systems are available in a variety of forms and can be applied to a range of products including meats, poultry and fish. Our team of technologists have developed edible films and casings that are comprised of plant based ingredients. These products are 100% vegetarian, biodegradable, and can be fortified with a variety of flavours, nutrients and functional properties. Utilizing state of the art print technology, our films possess the capacity to showcase text, brand names, logos, pictures and colours directly on a products surface. They are safe for ingestion and can be used in an array of commercial applications including confectionary, baked goods, edible breath strips, sausage casings and more!"

Examples of their edible film applications include:

  • Printed logos create marketing opportunities
  • Printed icing film makes decorating easy
  • Reduce risk of cross contamination with Kosher and Halal Certified casings
  • Flavour and nutrient fortified breath strips dissolve on contact
  • Grill marks enhance final product appearance
  • Spice films contribute to uniform spice distribution.

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On March 31, 2014 Domino's Pizza in the UK featured the Edibox, a edible pizza box. Said to be the World's first Snackaging, the box was said to owe its creation to the fact that people like the pizza crust so much. And the best part was said to be waste reduction, "And the best bit? You won’t have to fight to fit that square box into a round bin – this is a waste-free dining experience."

Most comments recognized the close timing to April Fool's but some who didn't had questions about sanitation: "and so what we gotta just eat this thing that some delivery dude had his paws all over? how long does it stay fresh?"

Domino's. The #DominosEdibox Revolutionises Pizza Delivery. 



While the edible pizza box might have been a joke, another dough-based product has a long history. A portable convenience food, the Cornish pasty, was part of the staple diet of miners and farm workers beginning in the late 18th Century in Cornwall, England, according to the Cornish Pasty Association, which sets the standard for the food since it became a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) as published in the Official Journal of the European Union along with Champagne, Parma Ham, Stilton Cheese, Cornish Clotted Cream, and other regional specialities. A genuine Cornish Pasty has a D shape, is crimped on one side, and is filled with beef (ground or chunks), swede (rutabaga), potato, onion and a light pepper seasoning with no other flavourings or additives. The factsheet says, "Its size and shape made it easy to carry, its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days." In those earlier days, miners in tin mines are said to have carried the pasty by the crimped edge and discarded that edge used as a handle because their hands had arsenic from the tin.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Under the headline ‘A clearing in the trees’ the August 23rd edition of The Economist reports on global deforestation. The article reports that fifteen years ago the conversion of forest into farmland accounted for 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions while today deforestation accounts for only 12%.

The issue of the role of deforestation in GHG emissions and in sequestration of carbon remains controversial not only in industry circles but also in scientific circles, as readers of some recent articles in our companion publication GallonDaily will recognize. But our purpose here is not to further debate the issues but to note that the article in The Economist gives recognition to research by someone with a close, albeit familial, connection to GallonLetter. Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon is now working with the Center for Global Development, described by The Economist as a Washington think-tank. [GallonLetter dislikes that term - our observation has been that many, some self-named as, think-tanks think many silly and unscientific thoughts.]

The Gallon-Ferretti report, What Drives Deforestation and What Stops It? A Meta-Analysis of Spatially Explicit Econometric Studies - Working Paper 361, researched with Jonah Busch, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development, seems to be one think tank report that is well-founded. It finds that the influences most closely correlated with deforestation are population, proximity to cities, and proximity to roads.

The report concludes that promising approaches for stopping deforestation include reducing the intrusion of road networks into remote forested areas; targeting protected areas to regions where forests face higher threat; tying rural income support to the maintenance of forest resources through payments for ecosystem services; and insulating the forest frontier from the price effects of demand for agricultural commodities.

What Drives Deforestation and What Stops It? A Meta-Analysis of Spatially Explicit Econometric Studies - Working Paper 361. Center for Global Development. Washington DC. April 2014.



Making the environment a priority starts at home, according to a 2011 OECD survey of 12,000 households in 11 countries including Canada. Governments taking initiatives to reduce the environmental impacts of household consumption need to know how households vary in their environmental behaviour and how measures impact on sustainable consumption patterns, Since 2005, the surveys have focussed on five areas considered to have the most environmental impact: energy, food, transport, waste and water. The new report contains chapters which provide insight on the effects of various policy measures and the role of green consumer behaviours. Each of a variety of government policy measures provide different incentives for environmentally responsive consumer choices and responses. Measures include economic instruments (e.g waste charges, grants for insulation), direct regulation (e.g. water use limits, technical standards for appliances), labelling and information campaigns (e.g. ecolabels) and environmentally related services (e.g. recycling services, public transit).

GallonLetter chose to focus on Chapter 2 which is about household attitudes towards the environment. Respondents were grouped into three large categories: the environmentally motivated, environmental sceptics and technological optimists. There was also a fourth category with 2% of responders which were categorized as Extreme Responders which were not included in much of the details of the responses. The environmentally motivated (46% of sample) was just under half of the total and this the largest of the four classes believe environmental problems are real and express willingness to adapt lifestyle to try to solve them. They tended to require less reciprocity from others before taking action themselves. The environmental sceptics (32%) say that environmental problems are overstated and don't want to pay but express general willingness to do something just not so much as some of the other classes. Technological optimists (20%) agree that environmental problems are real and are willing to compromise their lifestyle but have greater belief in technological progress to solve environmental problems

Perception by individuals about environmental problems and the relation of the environment to other priorities is said to strongly affect household behaviour. When governments implement measures in the five policy areas, which are the focus of the survey, different households vary in their behaviour even when the same policy applies to all households. Among the observations regarding the questions respondents were asked were:

  • to rank the seriousness of six policy areas: international tensions, economic concerns, environmental concerns, health concerns, social issues and personal safety.
    Despite it being an era when governments are focusing on deficit reduction and economy rather than the environment, 70% of respondents agreed that "protecting the environment is a means of stimulating economic growth."
    -In every country, economic concerns were most frequently ranked as highest priority of the six. In Sweden, environmental concerns were ranked as most serious as frequently as economic issues (25%)
    -In seven countries of the eleven, environmental concerns were in the top three as the most serious. In Canada the top three were economic, health and environmental.
    -In most countries (except for France, Israel, the Netherlands and Spain), more females respondents than men ranked environmental concerns among the top three.
    -In eight countries (except for Israel, Japan and Korea), younger respondents expressed higher concern for environmental issues.
    -In six countries, ranking of environmental concerns in the top three was related to level of post-secondary education. Exceptions were Israel, Japan and Switzerland where respondents with 3-4 years of post-secondary education ranked environmental concerns as top three less frequently than respondents without post-secondary education. In Canada and Chile, respondents without any post-secondary education were most likely to rank environmental concerns in the top three.
    -In six countries, the relationship between income and environmental concerns was ambiguous. In Canada, Australia, Israel and Korea, those with higher income were more likely to rank environmental issues among the top three. In the Netherlands, middle-income respondents were more likely to do so.
  • to indicate willingness to pay extra. Most people weren't willing to pay extra for environmental initiatives with some exceptions. Most respondents said that they didn't think environmental policy should cost them extra money. Those who voted in national elections in the last six years (except those in Chile and Spain) were less likely to think environmental policies should not impose financial costs on them. In order for pricing to be effective, the consumer must be charged a unit price and be aware of the existence of a price. Most of the sample were subject to a per unit basis for water and electricity. The percentage of respondents not knowing how they were charged for water was highest in Canada and Australia. About a third of the whole sample didn't know how they were charged for waste, most households pay a flat fee.
  • to rank the top three environmental concerns indicated to be the most serious from a choice of six: natural resource depletion, endangered species, waste general, climate change, water pollution and air pollution.
    -Canada was the only country which ranked water pollution as the top environmental concern, just slightly ahead of resource depletion and climate change. Views on climate change were surprising. Those who said climate change is a uniquely important problem relative to other environmental issues were more likely to say that environmental impacts were frequently overstated.
  • to say whether the respondents should act even if others do not. In the sample, Australia, Canada, Chile and Spain were most likely to disagree that reciprocity was necessary for them to act on improving the environment.
  • In six countries, older respondents were more likely to say their own generation needed to solve the environmental problems
  • The extreme responders disagreed with each of the seven questions or had no opinion.

The chapter makes clear that the survey captures attitudes not behaviours. Intentions as expressed by the respondents may not be translated into changes in behaviour. For policy makers, the challenge is to develop policy which encourages households to "follow through" on their stated intentions.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Economic and financial risks face countries and corporations in a changing climate, says the annual report on climate change by Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released in July 2014. The report also talks about science and policy development. For some years now, Miller has been talking about getting Ontario to move on climate policy especially in reframing the climate policy link to economic opportunity, "the opportunity to be more efficient, invest in new technology and spur new industries. A price on carbon will help these green industries grow. Ontario is not keeping up with other provinces such as British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta and other jurisdictions. While a number of Ontario initiatives would over time reduce emissions, there is an urgency to reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the next seven years ie 2020.”

Some of the report's observations include:

  • the concept of a global carbon budget and the need to keep carbon unburned to keep the increase in warming to 2 deg C which nations agreed to. This means that two thirds of the global proven reserves of fossil fuels need to remain unburned. In Canada the S&P/TSX Composite Index is among the most carbon-intensive stock indices in the world e.g. in 2011 the TSX had more than 400 companies in the oil and gas sector. Unburnable carbon is a business risk for these members of the fossil fuel industry and their investors.
  • the insurance industry is facing the challenge of setting insurance rates for extreme weather events including flash floods. The flood in Calgary in 2013 had insured costs of $1.7 billion. These events are becoming more common and more serious. Infrastructure such as sewers, stormwater and roads meeting standards for historical severity of events may fail under more serious stressors even more so as a lot of infrastructure is aging and poorly maintained. Ontario's stormwater infrastructure is estimated to need $6.8 billion for repair and replacement. All three levels of government ought to be more focussed on preventing damage from climate change rather than just reacting by spending vast amounts of tax dollars once the damage is done.
  • fossil fuels used in transportation account for the largest greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, 56.6 MT or 34% of the total provincial emissions. Most of these emissions are from passenger vehicles which account for 31.4 MT. Ontario's Climate Change Action Plan 2007 projected reductions of 13 MT due to passenger vehicles and transit but in the 2012 progress report projected only 3.9 MT of emission reduction from transport by 2020 primarily due to expected federal emission regulations and higher prices for gasoline. Ontario has a target of 1 in 20 vehicles to be electric by 2020 but the report says, "the prospects of achieving this electric vehicle target are poor - unless strong efforts are taken to encourage such a transition."
  • levers which the government could use to reduce use of fossil fuels include: incentives for denser and more compact urban development, more investment in public transportation, more encouragement of better design including lighter weight vehicles for energy efficiency, more encouragement of alternative energy vehicles including electricity. Use of electricity is encouraged because Ontario has one of the least carbonized electricity grids.
  • in 2012, industry in Ontario was responsible for 50.4 Mt of GHG emissions. Even with no price on carbon some companies have developed shadow pricing to plan risks and opportunities for carbon policies which may yet be developed.
  • the buildings sector with the third largest GHG emissions at 17% of Ontario's total GHG emissions has demonstrated a decoupling between growth of the building stock and emissions. Although total residential floor space increased by 62%, the emissions increased by only 18%. Partly due to weather in some cases, building code improvements as well as changes in type of dwelling units which tended towards more apartments and condominiums rather than single-family houses have smaller space and shared walls which reduce the energy demand.
  • additional changes to the 2012 Ontario Building Code for energy efficiency requirements in effect January 2014 will further decouple floor space from GHG emissions. By 2016, the OBC will meet energy efficiencies established by the City of Toronto Green Standards which are 15 per cent better than the OBC. Bigger challenges are dealing with the 70% of the Ontario housing stock built before 1990. Requiring energy audits on resale would motivate home owners to renovate to improve energy efficiency. Regulatory changes to allow local improvement charges, loans made by the municipality to the homeowner or small commercial building for energy efficiency that are repaid as part of the property tax in annual payments. It is a loan to the property not the homeowner so if the home is sold, the loan doesn't have to be repaid. The City of Toronto has a pilot programme called HELP - the Home Energy Loan Program.
  • While insulation is seen as important to energy efficiency, some foam insulation used hydrofluorocarbons which have high global warming potential; production of the insulation and leakage of the gas could offset benefits of insulation in avoiding GHG emissions.
  • Rapid recharging at home is an important consideration for potential purchasers of EVs. Recharging for electric vehicles could be cut from 10 hours to less than 3 hours if the circuit was 240 volt, 32-amp requiring heavier gauge wiring and not that much extra cost.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Looking for leadership: The costs of climate inaction. Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2014. Toronto, Ontario: July 2014.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Keeping up with Monsieur and Madame Jones. Blog. December 11, 2013.



GallonLetter has written previously that environmental laws and enforcement get inadequate attention from the Canadian federal government and certainly fines and penalties seem to be relatively low or non-existent considering the damage done to the environment and people's health. The same government has managed to legislate what is called Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation. The government's guidelines for what businesses should do in terms of involving senior management which is liable along with the board, keeping data and records, and so on are what we would like to see told with similar detail to businesses about their environmental responsibilities. The fines under the anti-spam legislation range up to a million dollars for individuals and 10 million dollars for companies with some provision for a transition period of three years. What that would do for ensuring corporate responsibility for the environment. In contrast the result of this so-called anti-spam legislation for us has been twofold in addition to fear and trembling.

One is as sender of the Gallon Environment Letter for free to a long established mailing list which we have addressed by requiring receivers to sign up again or if the signup was relatively recent, compile all those requests. If there is a complaint, we have to be able to find all the emails asking to be added even though we haven't added email unless requested since taking over the GallonLetter in 2003. In addition to the draining of human resources in locating a decade old email, there are other problems e.g. when people change their emails the old one often still redirects to the new one which of course we wouldn't have a record of - so they might complain about getting the GallonLetter unwanted to the new email and we couldn't prove they requested it for that email. Also many spammers adapt the email they are sending to look like legitimate emails so we couldn't prove we didn't send it because it looks like we did.

Of course, many Canadian companies have sent us notices to update to receive for their mailing list. One business organization said they only received about one response to ten emails seeming to indicate that 90% of receivers don't want the emails. This may not necessarily be such a high proportion if our situation applies to others. We have been unable to respond to all the requests to renew, partly because they came in a tight batch and the volume is too high and the time too demanding to renew all these environmental and business sources established over several decades. Some we may not want but reputable businesses have fairly easy unsubscribe urls or for the unreputable ones more easily identified, the delete button before downloading and the spam filters works good. Of course, we don't read all the informational emails when they are received, many we never read but over time, we read a lot from a variety of a wide range of business sources and already notice a loss of Canadian-sourced information. There doesn't seem to be any reduction in the scam spam and non-Canadian sources still send to us so the loss of environmental information is entirely that from Canadian business sources.

This cutting off of an essential communication in the digital age is described by Terence Corcoran of the National Post as Spamaflop or a "Monty-Python-esque farce". GallonLetter can't recall if we've ever agreed with Corcoran who we nevertheless envy for his creativity and use of language in editorial columns which aren't generally based on fact or reliant on verification e.g. his stance that climate change science is mere alarmism. So it is a big gulp to think we might agree with him but so it happens. Of course spam in Monty Python days wasn't connected to electronic communication but to baked beans, eggs and such like. Monty Python is amusing judging from the reactions of the people filling most of the seats of the 15,000-seat O2 arena in London, UK on July 4, 2014 for the show of Monty Python Live (Mostly). Canada got special mention in an arena-wide lighted banner during the Lumberjack Song with its dancing red-suited Royal Canadian Mounted police - the lights recommended visitors go see Canada ranked with Finland as boring but Canada has elk and exciting mayors. That show was amusing but this government's tendency to control information especially environmental and information critical of the government is not funny.

Terence Corcoran: Spamaflop! Why Ottawas anti-spam law is a Monty-Python-esque farce. National Post. July 4, 2014.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Frequently Asked Questions about Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation.



If you enjoy Gallon Environment Letter or find it useful for your work or interests, may we recommend the GallonDaily report. Found at , GallonDaily provides short articles and reports on topics of particular interest to green businesses. One article appears almost every day Monday to Friday - we recommend visiting at least once a week. Our real enthusiasts can also sign up for email notification as new articles are posted.

Recent topics include:

  • Lack of environmental planning creates problems during and after disaster response
  • Four more substances added to very credible list of human carcinogens
  • Health statistics show there is no safe level of air pollution
  • US Inspector General report updates case against hazardous industrial waste into sewers
  • Is such a small mention at least a step forward?
  • Canada not part of New York Declaration on Forests
  • UN Climate Summit achieves quite a bit more than expected
  • Number of Green Party politicians growing slowly but steadily in Canada
  • Global population may grow to exceed previous projections
  • US Administration takes steps to combat antibiotic resistance


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