If you’ve ever made yourself instant ramen, you’ll know the process involves putting dry noodles in a bowl, dispersing the flavored contents of a plastic sachet into the bowl, and adding hot water. It’s simple, but the problem is the sachets aren’t recyclable and are one of the biggest sources of plastic waste in our oceans (not just ramen sachets, but all types of sachets such as those used for condiments).
To replace the many plastic sachets that accompany packs of instant noodles, product design student Holly Grounds has created an edible, spice-infused wrapper that breaks down when cooked to season the broth. The packaging consists of a flavorless biofilm, which is made from only a handful of readily-available ingredients including potato starch, glycerin, and water. Once it has been heat sealed, the film keeps the dry noodles from going stale. But as soon as it comes into contact with boiling water it dissolves in less than a minute.
With herbs and flavorings embedded into the packaging itself, the resulting liquid effectively acts as the sauce, while larger ingredients such as dried shrimp are stored loosely in the parcel before being released into the broth. For hygiene purposes, the individual parcels are stored in a wax-coated paper sleeve.
Grounds was motivated by the many long days and nights she spent studying, which were fueled by packets of instant ramen often containing “more plastic than noodle”. She became hyperaware of the irony that a dish that was designed to be cooked and eaten in under ten minutes comes in packaging that takes upwards of eight decades to decompose.
Her dissolvable wrapper was conceived as an alternative to this mountain of single-use plastic, as well as to its bioplastic substitutes, which she says often fall short of their promises. And in order to avoid potential greenwashing, she created packaging that actually disappears before the eyes of the user and gives them peace of mind. Now that’s a yummy, innovative solution—one that we’d love to try out ourselves.