When the bowl tastes as good as the Cap’n Crunch (or the soup, salad or fruit) it contains, the world has moved one step closer to reducing plastic waste. And a startup in South Africa has made that a real possibility.
Munch Bowls, founded in 2014 by artist/entrepreneur Georgina de Kock, offers edible, biodegradable, single-use bowls and saucers made from wheat. The bowls have a shelf life of 15 months or longer and can hold any foods, including hot soups, for more than five hours, the company’s website states.
According to CNN, the edible bowls were originally made by hand but can now be mass-produced. “I was looking around and just noticing all the rubble that is created by us humans, and it really started irritating me,” de Kock told CNN. “Whatever you can put on a plate, you can put in the bowl. It’s the perfect size to hold in your hand.”
Munch Bowls sells its edible bowls to hotels and companies in the hospitality industry in South Africa, Belgium, Singapore and Dubai. They sell at a wholesale price of 33 cents apiece, which is a little more expensive than plastic food containers, but, unlike the latter, the dinnerware can be eaten as part of the meal.
The Burn-In reports that de Kock recently took on a new partner and hopes to open six new production lines in 2020. Other items to be offered include coffee cups, spoons and in-flight meal containers.
Munch Bowls isn’t the first company to provide edible dinnerware. Polish entrepreneur Jerzy Wysocki, founder of Biotrem, invented a process to manufacture edible plates, bowls and cutlery out of wheat bran more than 15 years ago. Biotrem now makes about 15 million edible, biobased plates each year, along with cutlery made from fully biodegradable PLA bioplastic and wheat bran. In an interview with Phys.org earlier this year, Wysocki said edible dinnerware can also be made out of corn, barley, oats, cassava and algae.
Biotrem has even gotten a boost in exposure from the new Netflix series, “The Witcher.” According to Biotrem’s Instagram page, the series, which is filmed in Poland, has featured the company’s edible plates and bowls in scenes that depict the series’ “witcher schools.”
Meanwhile, Phys.org reports that researchers at Gdansk University of Technology has developed edible cutlery made with potato starch. One of those researchers, Professor Helena Janik, noted that these forks, spoons and knives can be safely eaten by sea creatures as well. “We are the only ones so far to have tested the biodegradability of our products on living aquatic organisms, and it looks like this cutlery is safe for the environment,” she said.
The demand for edible plates and bowls should rise dramatically when the European Union’s ban on plastic plates and cutlery goes into effect in 2021. And as production ramps up to meet the growing demand, pricing is expected to come down.