Reimagined Ramen Comes In Edible Package

A hand holds a round disc of noodles wrapped in a translucent film with herb specs embedded in it.

Hackers and college students alike reach for ramen when they want to fuel up on a budget, but, if you’re concerned about packaging waste, the plastic film and foil packets start to weigh on your conscience. [Holly Grounds] was sick of this compromise and came up with a way to have your packaging and eat it too.

[Holly] first experimented with different bioplastics until she developed a recipe for “an edible, tasteless starch-based bioplastic, that dissolves in contact with boiling water.” With that accomplished, she next integrated flavoring into the bioplastic wrapper so that there’s no foil packet. She found that herbs and spices worked, but larger solids like shrimp couldn’t be incorporated into the film.

For the finishing touch, she fashioned the noodles into a disk so they fit better in a bowl for cooking. To cook the noodles, you remove a puck from the wax paper sleeve holding multiple servings, add boiling water, stir, and enjoy. [Holly] says that her ramen packets are quicker to prepare than existing packets since there are fewer steps and the shape is optimized for cooking. That’s a win-win for the planet and convenience.

If you want to see another pasta packaging marvel, we’ve previously covered Flat Pack Pasta. Have your own project to reduce packaging waste? Submit it to the Save the World Wildcard round of the Hackaday Prize which closes on October 16th!

31 thoughts on “Reimagined Ramen Comes In Edible Package

  1. If they are biodegradable and safe to consume by humans, how do they protect from mould and humidity? The entire point of plastic is that it is nearly a “forever chemical”. I’m sure starch-based will not stop fungi and harmful bacteria.

    1. From the linked article:
      > For hygiene purposes, the individual packets are stored in a wax-coated paper sleeve, which is recyclable and biodegradable. This is in contrast to some other products’ greenwashing claims that an item is compostable, only to find it needs to be taken to an industrial composting facility for that to be true.

      Don’t think that will solve it a 100%, but guess good enough for certain amount of storage time.

        1. It contains the herbs and spices, so you just drop it in boiling water without having to deal with any sort of “flavor” packet. Also, they are intended to be stored in multiples which means one slip cover will suffice for a dozen ramen pucks. This would be a drastic reduction in waste.

    2. You store it properly.
      Even plastic based edible goods have a “Store in a dry and cold place” warning on it.

      If you live in a very humid area, you might be better of with some proper plastic, waterproof, sealed containers, those should last a very long time, and you can store a diversity of food in it.
      Add some desiccant reusable bags if needed, and give them a drying run on your prepper stove from time to time if needed, or just plain sun when it shines.

      Too complicated ? well, people being lazy and getting accustomed to a lot of commodities are one of the source of all our environmental problems, got to train them somehow. Nothing like a regular environmental disaster to take conscience of the vanity and fragility of our way of life.

      About forever chemicals: if you really need some, go on, an invent a way to harvest them from rainwater:

        1. I’d argue it is packaging as it holds all the flavouring for the portion it surrounds, and assuming its at all durable enough means the odd knock that breaks a noodle with the inertia won’t leave lots of loose noodle bits in the bottom of the box/bag.

          It just isn’t ALL the packaging, but I’d still call it part of it – as without you’d have more packaging of some sort with the flavourings, and quite likely plastic around individual/small groups of potions – buy a box of many portions its usually got sub packaging dividing portions…

          And as ‘ono’ says stored properly a dry starch based item should last practically forever, in the cool dry place this should be all the packaging you really need for a good shelf life – drop your wax paper bag of ramen portions in a tupperware style box in your larder if you live in the damn nasty humid climes that make it easy for mold and fungus to grow.

        2. Well this is a stupid hot take. When I buy ramen, it comes in a box, that box contains wrapped packages, and those packages contain ramen and a “flavor” packet. This replaces the wrapped packages and the “flavor” packet. This eliminates two levels of packaging which means it is packaging.

          1. Maybe it eliminates the flavor packet packaging, but it is not unique in that. Some years ago, I used to get a seasoned rice, which had it’s seasoning in a compressed tablet.

  2. My thought is that the packaging keeps the food clean and safe to eat. If the packaging is edible, how contaminated would it get sitting in a pantry or cabinet? Not to mention, setting it on a countertop before putting it in the pan.

    1. I think we need to stop saying bioplastic (even though it’s correct) because people ignorant to that will assume you’re eating plastic…

      Idk, I’m just surrounded by absolute donkey-brained people and I know they will hear bioplastic and immediatley look up how their favorite politician feels about it.

      1. I’d rather people mistake this for plastic than mistake it for food. You’re eating something that is not designed for nutrition, but as packaging material. I applaud the ingenuity, but we need to stop putting stuff in our bodies that isn’t food.

        Bonus points: add MSG to the bioplastic so people crave more of it.

  3. It’s ironic that I saw this article only a couple months after reading about Dollar General’s rat infestation…

    You might as well ring the dinner bell for every rat, mouse, roach, ant, and microbe within 20 miles! Pests such as those are the whole reason plastic packaging exists.

    1. It’s definitely a question of balance, figures for rodent and pest spoilage of food range between 20 and 60% of total supply, which then as waste, has consumed that percentage more freshwater and invested energy and releases greenhouse gases when disposed of. So the footprint of the packaging has to be balanced against the footprint of the waste otherwise generated from spoilage.

      I have been coming up against inadequate packaging issues in my groceries lately. Mainly yoghurt pots and similar containers… either the plastic is too thin and cracking up, or the adhesion and permeability of the lids is questionable… resulting in something like 5% wastage. Why am I buying in single serving packaging? Again that is a balance between waste of bulk product after it’s been open a while and bulk encouraging overconsumption which is also waste really, and the fact that while large containers used to give a decent price break, it appears they no longer do so, across many types of product.

      For example if I drink apple juice every couple of days, the local price of 1 litre carton has crept up to 1.50, whereas I can still find 10x200ml for 2.25, I’m 75c ahead already buying the individual servings, but it’s actually worse, because nobody wants to wash the measuring jug every single freaking time, so I probably get the first 3 large glasses of apple juice out of the litre, and since consumption is every 2 days or so, by the time I’m thinking about the 4th glass, it’s been open a week and I’m reading “consume within 3 days of opening” on the side… hmmm, risk it or not? So practically, I’m only getting 6 servings and ~4-500ml wastage on my $3 spend on 2 litres bulk. Packaging, surely the packaging saving is saving the planet? IDK, I’d guesstimate the litre carton uses as much packaging as 3 200ml cartons, and effectively, I’m only getting three servings, so that’s a wash. Then what is the carbon cost of putting money in your pocket? I’d speculate that’s it’s at least equal to the average carbon cost of all products, since in one way or another, earning the money helps make the products. Therefore I’m a little doubtful that spending more on “environmentally friendly” packaging and low impact products is actually a net benefit. So in this instance, buying the “bulk” version might be some 30% worse than buying the individual packs, due to the wastage, no actual net loss of packaging per instance consumed, and carbon cost of obtaining extra funds to purchase.

      This is not true for all products though, and probably has some relation to the popularity of the sizes allowing mass production saving on some sizes but less on others which are less popular. Savings in mass production do imply savings in invested resources overall though also.

      1. Indeed a well reasoned thought process – though I don’t think in this case the creator is thinking of the edible packaging as anything but convenient portion separation – the rest of the packaging has to deal with pests and damp..

        And as you can’t seem to buy noodle in anything but rat’s nest bundles (where are the long stick spaghetti style pick your own portion size packet for noodles?!?!?! (yes they are similar but different!)) I’d say this is a winner in eliminating some sub packaging that would be keeping the portions separate and the flavoring stuff being integrated again likely eliminates packaging and makes ’em more convenient.

        So here I can’t see any real downside to the ‘edible’ packaging part after production compared to the default heaps of plastic – the only question comes in how much energy is consumed and if any food waste in generated in creating the edible wrapper – if its throwing away 50% of the plant stock to make it, and that 50% was at least partially digestible goodness it might end up loosing out to just eating the source plant matter more directly all shipped around in plastic…

        As to the suggested waxed cardboard, well there is no doubt such packaging is functional, as it was in use for a very long time. But there are a number of reasons it has been replaced by the thin plastic film on cardboard… Not sure how that one plays out, and not sure it matters much as long as the waste processing handling it exists (even if its just energy recovery burning).

  4. So lets think about the purpose of packaging.

    1. Transport without damage (fail)
    2, Be uninviting to common pests (fail)
    3. Be environmentally friendly (success)
    4. Extend the shelf life of the product as much as possible (unlikely)
    5. Be convenient for the end user (success)
    6. Be easily stackable (fail)
    7. Use shelf and storage space efficiently, stores don’t like products that don’t fit nicely. (fail unless boxed)

    I see a few problems with this packaging. It will not like humid conditions like you might get during transport in unconditioned spaces. It will be very hard for the end user to verify that the packaging is intact. You can pretty easily tell if the plastic on your ramen package is broken. With a conformal coating like this there is no way to tell if the cover has been abraded away or its integrity is compromised. I would guess that it would support mold and other bacteria if moisture is correct.

    At the end of the day, the reality is that the outer packaging must be disposed of for sanitary reasons. I am not sure waxed paper cartons are the way to go, it seems most applications for it have been replaced over time (milk cartons).

    1. Though I’d say if packaging of food is a fail in humid conditions it’s a fail in general, since kitchens are often humid and ppl tend to store most of their food in or in immediate vicinity of kitchen. The only worse place in the house for them would be a bathroom. You’d probably learn to keep them in a sealed container, but with cupboard space being a common complaint in every kitchen, you wouldn’t want to be finding room for dozens of partially full rigid containers, vs the current sitch of a lot of foods coming in packaging durable enough they share the shelf with everything else “loose”

      1. The kitchen cupboards aught to be reasonably cool*, dark and dry even in a humid kitchen if you keep the door closed most of the time. And if a kitchen is that humid that it is a real problem it implies you are using it alot**, which tentatively implies you don’t need a ‘end of time’ shelf-life, you are buying and going through your food at a good clip, rather than ordering takeout for 90% of meals…

        *At least if the doors are out of direct sun/ not over your heat generating appliances
        **Or your kitchen is really terribly designed and/or really really tiny/ you live in a stupendously humid place where every room not actively conditioned is hell…

    2. There’s plastic inside your bloodstream. It is mimicking parts of your endocrine system. It’s not just messing with you, but through epigenetic effects it will effect your entire bloodline. Currently certain androgens are at similar levels in twenty-year-olds that they used to be only in seventy-year-olds.

  5. Plastic is just part of the atmosphere wanting to return to where it came from, so burn solid municipal waste and recover the energy in it. There is nothing wrong with using polymers, so long as the additives are not toxic, the key requirement is where you source the hydrocarbons and that you return them to complete the cycle. Fluoroplastics etc. are far more problematic and should be only be used where absolutely necessary. Also never forget that the Earth will, via subduction, recycle entire civilisations eventually, so this is not about saving the Earth, the Earth is doing just fine, it is the biosphere that we need to learn to work with in a more sustainable way.

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