Designer turns animal skin and bones into biodegradable food packaging

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: it truly doesn’t make sense from an environmental standpoint that we package fresh products with a limited lifespan in indestructible plastic. That’s why we were excited to see a new packaging design from Icelandic designer Valdís Steinarsdóttir in a project called Just Bones.

Using byproducts from the meat industry, the designer has created two different types of sustainable packaging. The first is a container that is made from ground animal bones, while the other is a Bioplastic Skin that transforms animal skin into packaging for the same creature’s meat. That may not sound so appealing, but the result is quite amazing as both materials dissolve in hot water and are biodegrade within weeks.

“I found meat processing to be both an extremely hard and morally challenging topic to explore,” Steinarsdóttir told design magazine Dezeen. “In fact, that was exactly what inspired me to go further, because I think as designers we need to be unflinching and ready to tackle uncomfortable issues.”

To produce the containers for Just Bones, which come in the form of bowls and vases, Steinarsdóttir sources materials from local slaughterhouses and grinds down the bones into a powder via an advanced mortar machine. In addition, she creates glue to bind the materials together by putting bones in sour fruit extract and then boiling them to collect the gelatin.

“First when I mix the material it is liquid so I can mold it, similar to molding ceramic,” says Steinarsdóttir. “Once it has dried, it becomes strong and I can drill, saw, and laser cut it, for example.”

As for the Bioplastic Skin, the designer boils animal hides to collect gelatin and uses that to make a thin plastic-like material. “People have been using this method for centuries to make wood glue. I modified this process in order to create the plastic-like material.”

In the future, Steinarsdóttir hopes that the packing will become a visual indication of how fresh the products it contains is.

“I would like the material to have the same expiration date as the meat inside it,” said the Iceland native. 

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