It drives me crazy when grocery stores wrap a bunch of bananas in plastic wrap. Bananas already have a protective wrapping on them; it’s called the banana peel. Harvard professor David Edwards has taken inspiration from protective wrapping around fruits and vegetables like banana peels and created an edible food and beverage packaging called WikiPearl.

Keeping food protected from dirt and germs is important, but the packaging that has traditionally been used to protect food comes with its own problems. It creates a huge waste problem. Even with the increase in recycling over the past decades, a lot of food packaging ends up in the landfill. Then there’s the possibility of the materials — particularly plastics often used to create the packaging — leaching toxins into the food that’s supposed to be protected.

WikiPearl is in the early phases of helping to eliminate some of these problems. The packaging can be wrapped around foods like yogurt, cheese, ice cream and fruits and vegetables. The foods inside are called the “heart.” The wrap on the outside is known as the “skin,” and it’s made of natural, edible, biodegradable foods and nutrients.

Technically speaking the skin is “a protective electrostatic gel formed by harnessing interactions between natural food particles, nutritive ions and a polysaccharide.”

(Don’t worry. I don’t fully grasp that definition either.)

Stonyfield Farm is using WikiPearl for a new product, Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls. The Pearls have flavor combinations like vanilla frozen yogurt wrapped in a peach-flavored skin. Right now, the product is being sold in a few Boston-area Whole Foods stores.

Co.exist explains that Stonyfield’s Pearls are still packaged, however. Even though the WikiPearl skin is protective and can be washed to remove dirt and germs like the skin of a fruit, stores aren’t equipped to sell them that way yet. So they’re pre-packed in cellulose bags made from wood fiber that are biodegradable and sold in the frozen foods aisle. Stonyfield and WikiFoods are working on a solution to the problem, though, so that eventually food in WikiPearl can be truly package-free.

The packaging isn’t perfect yet, but it’s an exciting and intriguing start to one solution to help curb the problem of food packaging waste.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Soon, you'll be able to eat the food packaging too
WikiPearl is an edible shell that wraps around food and complements the flavor. It’s meant to take the place of throwaway packaging, but it poses a challenge.